I’ve been a fan of The Choir since shortly after Diamonds and Rain came out (thanks to Harvest Rock Syndicate’s review). I saw them at one of the New Sound festivals over 2 decades ago. Not the best experience. I think they opened the festival, I was not close to the stage and the sound dispersed. I couldn’t see much of worth. I missed a chance to see them with Russ Taff since it was on the wrong side of Boston on a weeknight and I had to work.
Last night I had the opportunity to see them live on their current tour for both the 25th anniversary of Chase the Kangaroo and the release of their new album The Loudest Sound Ever Heard. It was an intimate setting, with under 100 people in attendance. It was an easy 90 minute drive from my house to Foothills Baptist Church, which seems to have an enclave of people who enjoy the older alternative Christian bands like DA and the 77s. Easy drive aside from the guy who tried stubbornly to run me off the road. Thankfully I did not end up hearing a choir of angels sooner than I anticipated. I was anticipating The Choir.
They performed as a “power” trio. Dan Michaels was only able to make a few dates on this tour. But Tim Chandler was there to thump the bass for his first tour in 16 years. Life on the road is hard, so I understand not touring. Their ‘hey day’ is gone, but they still love to play music and meet the people who’ve been with them for years. It is like a reunion of sorts. They often see familiar faces. Mine wasn’t one of them, obviously.
I set up shop on Derri’s side of the stage. I like seeing guitarists do their thing. He had 3 guitars ready to go. He spent most of the night playing his starburst Fender Strat. He also played a Gibson on a few songs and a blue Gretsch guitar. The thing looked huge when Derri played it. He had an array of pedals to get his signature sound. He’s more like the Edge, not a flashy soloist.
Tim played one bass guitar, with one pedal. Steve played his drums, harmonica, some other percussion instruments and a lasso when needed.
The show began with playing the majority of Chase the Kangaroo in order. That means they started with Consider, which was going amazingly great when the guitars and vocals suddenly dropped off 2/3rds of the way thru. After a break, they got the electrical issues resolved, and played the rest of the set without further problems. They didn’t play Look Out (for your own), with Steve saying Derri never liked it (aside from the background vocals supplied by Gene Eugene and Riki Michelle, who weren’t performing), and the guitar part was difficult. Steve played Everybody in the Band solo, changing the lyrics to poke fun at Derri (whose birthday was the next day) and Tim.
They moved on to 3 songs from The Loudest Sound Ever Heard, with a verbal intro to Cross that River. Not being overly familiar with the album yet, I think the others were Laughter of Heaven and The Forest, but don’t lay money down on that.
Then they moved on to older songs, primarily from Circle Slide and Wide-Eyed Wonder.
They were very tight as a band, and did a great job sounding similar to the albums despite not having Dan to play synth and sax. Tim would ham it up at times. It was fun to watch Steve’s face as he played drums- very emotive. Derri is pretty much the straight man in the band. The sound was very good for a small room, and not so loud that my ears were ringing when they were done. I removed my ear plugs after Consider since it wasn’t overly loud even though I was in the third row. That might have something to do with the subdivision behind the church. But the intimate setting allowed me to gain a greater appreciation for their playing. You get to see them work, how much those fingers move, or how Steve is playing the drums.
They are not a band prone to elongated solos, so there were none of those. As mentioned, that just didn’t seem to be Derri’s style. But they played well together, just like the old friends that they are. My only complaint? It was far too short. Not quite 90 minutes. But perhaps that was due to their age, and ours. Most of the audience was 40’s and 50’s. There were some younger people, often the children of long time fans. While I wanted more, like Restore My Soul, it was good to get home around 10:30.
I was able to talk to Tim a little bit, thanking him for coming down to AZ. Told him I thought they sounded great. He played coy when asked how the DA album was going, merely a January release date. I expected him to be taller. Maybe the other guys are shorter than I anticipated. I’m glad I was able to attend the show, listening to songs that matter when life is hard. That is one of the things I appreciate about them, they didn’t pretend the life of faith was easy.
- Children of Time
- Sad Face
- The Rifleman
- Everybody in the Band
- So Far Away
- Chase the Kangaroo
- Cross that River
- 2 more from Loudest …
- To Cover You
- Sentimental Song
- Burning Like a Midnight Sun
- Encore: Circle Slide