February 26, 2020

Derek Webb and Band: The Dame, Lexington, Ky, 11/14/04

Derek Webb and his new band brought the “I See Things Upside Down” tour to a small bar/club in Lexington, Kentucky on Sunday night, and I was fortunate to be there for a wonderful show.

Webb is a former singer/songwriter in Caedmon’s Call, leaving last year to make his own harder-edged, more theologically “out front” music. His debut album, She Must and Shall Go Free, may be the freshest, most confrontative Christian music since Keith Green. Webb followed that record with a house tour…..that is, a real tour of living rooms across America. The results are available in The House Show, which gives a great glimpse into Derek Webb the performer and prophet.

The shadow of Bob Dylan is everywhere on Webb’s music. Webb loves the rootsy sound of the early acoustic Dylan, but he also loves the Dylan “electric band” sound that upset the folk scene in the late sixties. In a rapidly developing Christian folk and acoustic scene, Webb is a leader in the kind of songwriting that attracts thoughtful, “reformission” minded Christians. An out-front Calvinist, Webb has the ability to translate theological reflection into art with emotion, something Calvinists aren’t exactly known for.

Several reviews of Webb’s new record, I See Things Upside Down, have mentioned a more creative “studio” sound. I haven’t heard the record, but I can easily explain the difference in this recording and previous records: Derek Webb has put together an incredibly creative and competent band, and that band was on full creative volume at The Dame Sunday night. The band is made up of Paul Moak on guitar, Will Sayles on drums (Over The Rhine, Griffin House), Cason Cooley on piano, guitar and organs (The Normals), and Matt Pierson on bass (who also played on She Must and Shall Go Free).

This is a marvelous band, and if you follow the Paul Moak link, you will discover why I was absolutely blown away by the guitar talent of this young man. His use of multiple vintage instruments and his careful creation of unique sounds is the creative edge that is elevating Derek Webb’s music to a new level. One only had to hear Thankful turned into a ripping electric jam to appreciate the fun Derek Webb is having writing and producing with this band in mind.

Playing in a small club to approximately 200 college students was almost as intimate as a living room, but Derek put on a show worthy of a large venue, thoroughly mixing his material and letting the music do the talking.

Many of Derek’s songs need some context to be fully appreciated, but he passed on the intros and explanations, instead letting the band shine in their interpretations of each song. Though this was a “Christian” concert, nothing about the evening explicitly made an evangelistic point. Still, Webb’s lyrics are clearly Biblical and spiritual in nature, and the audience knew their way around all the songs except the new material.

After ninety minutes, Webb ended with I Repent, and left us all wishing for more of the band. I was a fan of the “Derek Webb unplugged,”sound, but Derek Webb “plugged in” was delightful. If you have a chance to see this tour, you won’t be sorry. Here is an artist staying true to a way of mixing art and ministry that I think is long overdue. He derserves to sell a lot of records, but don’t make him too famous. I like standing ten feet from the band for ten bucks.