Friday, October 24, 2008

Best Husband's Birthday EVER!

Where do I even start? How about with a warning: this will be a long post, so be sure to settle in with a good drink before you get started. Seriously -- go get a latte!

A little background to bring you up to date...
I became an Amy Grant fan when I was in the fourth grade when my friend Kim (and her mom) introduced me to some of Amy's albums. Kim's mom had Age to Age, but we never listened to that for some reason -- probably because it wasn't as "cool" as Straight Ahead. Because check out the pictures from inside the Straight Ahead cassette tape jacket:

Those were the coolest pictures ever to this ten year old! I envied Kim her tape, and asked for Amy albums for my 11th birthday. By this time, it was 1986, and we had just retired from the army. My step-grandmother gave me "Unguarded" and "The Collection" for my birthday, and I spent many an afternoon dancing around our family room to those records. I still have them, though I have no record player to play them upon. (Don't worry about me -- I've got them on my iPod.)

Over the years my fondness for Amy as an artist grew, and everything I came to read about her showed me what an incredible and amazing person she is. Not perfect, but very smart and very honest about who she is and the kind of person she strives to be. Each album has meant something special and different for me. I've told you before my feelings about certain songs and their impact on my life -- there are more stories than I can count from these last 23 years. That's part of what makes this particular concert such a joy. All the music was set to be only from 1988 and before, and those years include most of my favorite albums. I've been to a few other concerts, including one from that Straight Ahead album back in 1986, but never have I been lucky enough to go to anything other than the concert.

Until yesterday.

The Soundcheck

I finally found the location of the concert, after having given myself bad directions, and arrived JUST as they were taking the Friends of Amy folks into the concert area. It turned out to be an outdoor show, which is how I'd kept picturing it in my head, despite the fact that every other show has been indoors. We were taken down to the front rows on the grass, and told to please stay in our seats while the band got all the instruments tuned up, etc. We watched each guy come out and get their guitars, drums, sax's, etc ready for the show. After a little bit they turned the sound on and really gave us a taste of how loud it would be that night.

What can I say about the band? They're AMAZING! These guys are all pros who have either recorded with and/or toured with Amy for years, and almost all of them were on the Lead Me On tour 20 years ago, which is the album the show was celebrating. Every single one of them blew me away, especially the guitars and the guy who played the flute, sax, harmonica and sang vocals. Talk about multi-talented! Here they all are during the check.

After a while in the hot sun, we were all refreshed when Amy finally joined them on stage. They played three songs, and each one sounded better than the last thanks to the sound being put right. happened. We'd been told that Amy would "wave to us from the stage," but that we shouldn't expect a meet and greet or autographs. I was willing to live with that -- it was just a thrill to be up front and see the whole band rehearse together. Only she didn't wave to us from the stage -- she stepped off of it onto the grass! Huh? Those of us sitting further away managed to remain cool as it became clear that each of us was going to get a turn to say hello and take a picture. We stood up and inched our way to the right. Most people took a minute, and nobody was obnoxiously long about it, so it didn't take long to get closer to my turn. I knew I was nervous, but I didn't realize how nervous until suddenly I was handing the tech my camera and walking up to Amy.

I'm not too proud to tell you this, folks. I choked. I completely and utterly choked. There I was, standing next to Amy Grant, and my emotions got the best of me. It was bound to happen -- I'm a crier. We shook hands, and I managed to get out "I've been listening to you since I was eleven years old." She could see that I was trying not to cry, and said something nice, but I can't for the life of me tell you what it was. I thanked her for doing this, posed for the picture, told her to have fun tonight, and got the heck out of there with what little dignity I could muster. Stupid emotions!! *sigh*

She must have thought I was less than interested in talking to her, but the truth is, I couldn't see bawling all over her as being a good memory. Yes, there are things I would have loved to have shared with her as a fan, but not if I was going to risk blowing a snot bubble. Because that is just not something I would survive.

And here it is -- my newest prized possession. Don't know if I'll ever be this lucky again. Check out our bad selves in our shades.

I was barefoot and she was in boots, so between us, I don't look freakishly tall! As soon as I left the soundcheck, I had my regrets about not having been calm enough to say more, but that didn't stop me from calling my husband and my parents to say I JUST MET AMY GRANT!!

The Concert

I went home to pick up my Hubby after the soundcheck, and after dropping the kids off with a favorite neighbor, we took off for the show.

It started a little late, as all shows do, but when it began it was a perfect night from beginning to end. Amy came out on stage alone and opened with just her on the acoustic guitar singing, "My Father's Eyes." Then the band joined her and things really took off. I can't remember the order of the set list, but it included:

Lead Me On
Saved by Love
What About the Love (very powerful!)
All Right
Wait for the Healing
Wise Up (Amy had us sing a part)
Find a Way
Everywhere I Go (Amy had us stand up and sway - audience participation!)
Sing your Praise to the Lord
El Shaddai
All I Ever Have to Be

Amy was humorous throughout the show, mentioning the tour from 20 years ago a few times, and cracking jokes about the 80's. Shoulder pads and audience participation songs were strong memories for her. She was also wearing the original black jacket that she wore 200 times through the first tour. Her quote: "It smells."

At the end of the night they closed quickly and then came right back out for the encore. That was maybe the best part of the night, because by then everyone was dancing, cheering and singing along. A lot of people had moved down to the front of the stage, but we stayed in our 2nd row seats since we'd had a great view all night. Amy sang a new song that really pounded on my heart -- it was essentially about how we all have the best and the worst in us, and if you're looking for the worst in someone, you'll find it. Wouldn't it be nice if we always looked for the best? I felt inspired to be a better person and less intent on being annoyed with certain people. She also sang "Stay for Awhile," "She Colors My World," "Say Once More," and then the band closed with a great cover of "Turn Turn Turn." Everyone left that place happy last night, but nobody more than me.

I've got some video that I'll post later this weekend.

Thanks again to my husband who spent his birthday at an Amy concert, of all places. I've promised him we'll do something HE wants to do on MY birthday next month. I guess I'd better stock up on beer and old football game footage. *yuk yuk*


Nicole said...

How cool! you can't get any better than that. Who cares if you choked, it probably meant all the more to her. What a wonderful day!

kristen said...

That is SO awesome!! I LOVE Amy Grant and have been listening to her for years also. I'm glad you had such a great time and how great that you actually got to meet her and get a picture!!! YEA!!!!

Ranch Girl said...

Awesome, Mer! It sounds like you had a 'once in a lifetime' evening!

Tami said...

I am soooo jealous!! I LOVE AMY GRANT!

I'm such a dork, I was tearing up reading about you tearing up :)

Amazing story! I love it!!!

Ann Harrison said...

This was such a treat!
Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us.
The first time I saw Amy Grant I was with my Young Life group so-o-o-o many years ago.
"El Shaddai" is my favorite!

Rebekah said...

That is so cool. I grew up listening to Amy, she was so cutting edge in Christian music back them.
My brother and his friend had the BIGGEST crush on her. The got a life size cardboard cut out of her from the book store and took turns keeping it at their houses.

Learning Spanish at 41 said...

Yay, Merrie! How fun that you got the photo with Amy. She is one of two artists that I haven't met that are on my list...Amy and Smitty. We are going to hear her tonight in Portland, OR. Glad to hear she's including songs from pre-1988 as well. All I Ever Have to Be is one of my faves!

2 hours and counting...

Anonymous said...

Hi Merrie: I found you via the foa blogs (I'm the fan that was next to you at the concert!). Don't worry about your tears...she's seen it all before! This was my second meeting and both times I had all kinds of things I wanted to say. Unfortunately, you can't resolve years of unrequited love in 30 seconds, and like most fans, I walk up to her, start having hot flashes, a verbal palsy takes over, and I can't complete a sentence. It's really horrible and I always leave feeling like I lost yet another chance. Next time, I'll bring notes! Jen

LazyCrazyMama said...

So nice of your hubby :) sweet!! And it sounds like you had an AWESOME time!!! What a wonderful artist! I've heard her stuff and she is great. How cool!! :)

Anonymous said...

Wow! That is awesome! I am a long time Amy fan too. Also right around '86. I will only tell you from personal experience that it only gets easier with each time you get the oppourtunity to meet Amy. My reaction was the same as yours the first time we met but I am soooo thankful for it too! I could NEVER imagine having that opportunity and now I have had three in the last 10 years. It's amazing. Forget the notes...just go in, look her in the eye and share with her whatever it is that is on your heart. I managed to pull that off the second time...the third time I used to introduce her to a dear friend of mine. I am so thankful to find others who understand how Amy and her music can have such an effect on our lives. God bless.

Rhonda said...

Thank you so much for sharing your experience! I'm a long time (25 years)Amy fan and I think her music is just as relevant today as back then! It's fun to read your blog and know there are other Amy Grant fans out there, I grew up listening to Amy but as an adult don't have friends who are as crazy about her music as I am. I saw Amy and Amy with Smitty in concert in my teens and twenties and I took my twelve year old daughter to the the Lead me On concert this past year! Wow. It was fantastic! Rhonda