Last night, my wife and some friends from church crossed the dreaded Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel to see Matthew Smith (of the Indelible Grace community) in concert at Calvary Reformed Pres. in Hampton. There was a decent crowd, and aside from some awkward lighting and sound problems that come with having a show at a small-ish church, it was a great show.
Matthew Smith has a strong, almost effortless voice and sings with a conscious awareness of the words he sings. His voice, style, and band all complemented the old texts of the hymns with the new music. On the ride home, we were reflecting how Indelible Grace (at least their live performances) have started to get a little more “electric” compared to their folksy, acoustic, Americana roots. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing and merely adds a different perspective to the hymns. I also think the electric influence can be attributed to Smith, but I don’t know for sure.
I really appreciated the thoughtfulness that went into making the setlist, with each song flowing to the next, fitting the general theme Smith was trying to get across. I didn’t write down the setlist during the show, so my memory might be a bit fuzzy. We also forgot our camera, so no photos to share.
Smith started out with two songs off his latest solo LP, All I Owe: “His Love Can Never Fail” and “Thy Blood Was Shed for Me.” Next, he launched into songs about a Christian’s struggles with doubt, sin, and yearning for God to do a work in the Christian’s heart through His Word and grace. To my delight, Smith did two Isaac Watts’ hymns in a row. The first, “Long Have I Heard,” is off Smith’s recently-released five-song EP, Love Shall Never Die. Click here to read the lyrics and see below for a way to download the album. You can also stream it here. The second Watts’ hymn was “O, Help My Unbelief,” which I’ve mentioned on this blog a couple times. Smith continued this theme by giving a short explanation of true repentance, exemplified by the next song, “Jesus I Come (Out of My Bondage).” I had never really connected to this song (from the third Indelible Grace album), but after Smith’s explanation of it as a prayer of repentance, I liked it a lot more.
After an old RUF favourite (“And Can It Be”), Smith delved into a lengthy discussion of the Compassion International ministry of sponsoring a child. This set the stage for the next song about when we stand with Christ in glory (“All I Owe”), and was a foreshadowing of a theme in the second set.
The second set started with a corporate singing of “Grace Greater Than Our Sin,” and an upbeat version of “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go”. Smith then continued the theme of suffering with “Remember Me” and “Calmer of My Troubled Heart (Hallelujah).” Both are off Love Shall Never Die. He followed these up with a sermonette on Christ’s imputed righteousness and a song proclaiming the gospel message in “Come Ye Sinners.”
Smith closed the second set by joking that though the audience had been respectfully quiet (as only a reformed Presbyterian audience could be), he wanted them to rise and sing three RUF favourites, “Arise, My Soul, Arise,” “On Jordan’s Stormy Banks,” and “Nothing But the Blood.” Following the shortest encore break in history (seriously, I’ve seen longer curtain calls at Yankee Stadium), Smith and the gang returned to do a very appropriate closing song, “All is Well.” I thought the show was over because the drummer and bassist left, but Smith and the electric guitarist stayed to do “Watch the Rising Day” (also off Love Shall Never Die) and “Be Thou My Vision.”
Smith and the band put on a great show, and I’d encourage you to see them if you get the chance. Check out the tour tab on MatthewSmith.us for tour dates. Also, the more I listen to Love Shall Never Die, the more I like it. As such, I’d encourage you to check it out through NoiseTrade: