Another moment conveyed the technical acumen needed to pull off a show like this. Andy Gullahorn introduced “Hard To Get” with a disclaimer: “Our brains are kinda fried from trying to learn the songs for the second half of the show.” Then he called Gabe Scott to the stage before realizing out loud, “Oh, I never gave you a chart!” Undaunted, Scott watched for a verse and then added his subtle dobro to Jill Phillips’ background vocal while Gullahorn brought a deep, emotional silence to the room with Mullins’ most vulnerable song. These were supremely gifted musicians, and they treated their source material with a reverence befitting an audience with the Most High.
The songs in the first set were at times obscure, like Leigh Nash’s wonderful reprise of one of her track from Mullins’ Canticle Of The Plains. There was also the whimsy, as when Brandon Heath attempted the cup routine from “Screen Door” with fleeting success. But more often than not, there was a mix of wonder—seen in unabashed smiles and celebratory fist pumps just offstage—and poignancy—seen when Mitch McVicker, who barely survived the wreck that took Mullins home, willed himself to sing, “There’s bound to come some tears up in your eyes.”
To close the first set, Peterson told stories of encounters with Rich and his music, and shared the only non-Mullins song of the evening, “The Good Confession.” That song, which speaks of his encounter with Christ while his father preached at his Florida church, then gave way to the song that was his first encounter with the music of Rich Mullins, “If I Stand.” Even as the tears choked his voice, each chorus grew stronger as the audience took over. “If I weep, let it be as a man who is longing for his home.”
The ensuing intermission was a family reunion. Friends and strangers alike were cousins tracing their lineage to a common connection to Rich Mullins. Fitting, then, that Peterson took the stage a few minutes later to usher folks back their seats with “Hello Old Friends.”
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