Date: Fri, 05 Feb 1999 13:13:00 Subject: Ragamuffins concert review From: Sandy Yesnick RAGAMUFFIN CONCERT REVIEW by Sandy Yesnick On Saturday and Sunday, January 30 and 31, I had the privilege of seeing the Ragamuffins in concert at Sarasota Baptist Church in Sarasota, Florida. The Saturday night concert sold out (800 tickets) in just five days, so our local radio station (WJIS 88.1 FM) added a 2:00 p.m. concert on Sunday, which also was nearly sold out. It was everything I'd ever dreamed it would be and more. Although the concerts were a tribute to Rich Mullins, the praise was directed toward Jesus Christ--the One who made Rich all he was and the One who is making us all in His image. Rick told us that if we scream, we need to do it loudly; otherwise, they won't hear us with their new ear plugs. I don't know how much they heard, but it got pretty loud at times! The concert opened with "My Deliverer," which Rick Elias sang with great passion, followed by "Surely God Is With Us." Rick said we were a great audience, but is it OK if we stand up and dance? Someone said, "This is a Baptist church," to which Mark Robertson quipped, "That just means you can't drink beer!" The next song was "You Did Not Have A Home." It was fun, with almost everyone clapping and singing along. Before doing "Hard To Get," Rick told of going to Window Rock to see Rich about a week before he was killed. He said Rich knew that Rick can walk down any street or alley at any time of the day or night and no one will bother him, but put him in the middle of a field and he is paralyzed with fear. But Rick said he's glad he went. About halfway through the song, I felt tears start to well up in my eyes, so I had to stop listening to the words before they spilled out. It was all very moving. Next, Jimmy Abegg and Mark did "Boy Like Me, Man Like You." Jimmy admitted that he uses a "cheat sheet" because he is no good at memorizing things. Rick sat back with silly grin on his face, just waiting for Jimmy to mess up so he could laugh at him. It was so funny! The audience helped with the whistling in the middle and end of the song. Then the sanctuary was darkened and a single green light shone on Rick as began "The Color Green," followed by "Nothing Is Beyond You," which, Rick admitted, he "can't sing as pretty as Amy." He then did what Mark said was probably Rich's favorite worship song: "Man of No Reputation." Hearing that song on the CD is one thing; listening to it live is another. I believe Rich was right when he said no one could sing that song except its writer. The depth of emotions it stirs can only be brought fully out by the one who penned it. Aaron Smith came down from the drums for the final song of the first set: "If I Stand." It was beautiful. The audience stood and sang along. I appreciated the Scripture he quoted about "taking the helmet of salvation ... that we may be able to stand." The next half of the concert opened with Mark, Jimmy, Aaron, and Carl Herrgasell (the new keyboardist) doing "Screen Door," along with the cup choreography. Mark admitted that, no matter what combination of guys they use, they've never done it perfectly. And this weekend was no different. Jimmy messed up Saturday night, and Mark did it wrong on Sunday. Rick said he liked their version because he didn't have to do it! It was really something special to see, and, in spite of their mistakes, they got a standing ovation at both concerts. Next, Rick sang "Here In America" (one of my personal favorites), Mark did "Somewhere," and the audience stood and helped out with "Sing Your Praise To The Lord." Rick introduced Carl, who recently began traveling with them, and Carl sang "Elijah." It was awesome, and he got a standing ovation. Before singing "Hold Me, Jesus," Jimmy asked the audience to sing along with him. He said, "If you don't know the words, just make them up. That's what I do!" Rick and Mark then sang "Peace," Rick did "Calling Out Your Name," and the audience helped by singing the responses on "I See You." Again, I've seen something like that done on a video, but it's a whole different experience being there. I was singing it the rest of the weekend. The set ended with "Creed." What a song! The crescendo kept building until Rick got to the lines "I believe in the resurrection; I believe in life that never ends." There's no way to describe the power I felt as Rick shouted those words in song. It reminds us that death is NOT the end. Rich, and others we've loved and lost through death, are not gone forever. We WILL meet them again some sweet day, and we'll also meet those whose paths we wish had crossed ours in this life. After a standing ovation, the Ragamuffins came out for an encore, during which they taught us "That Where I Am . . ." (men sang one part, women sang another). They closed with "Sometimes By Step" and "Doxology." If the Ragamuffins come your way, it is well worth the money to see them. They are honest and open about their faults and failures. They may not always sing the lyrics just right and occasionally will break a guitar string, but I personally believe you won't find a better band--or a nicer group of guys--in all the world.
Return to top
Date: Sat, 06 Feb 1999 13:44:35 From: Kathleen Curzon Subject: [ragamuffin] HMT Concert Review I had the incredible blessing of being able to attend both the Fri night concert in Jacksonville, FL, and the Sunday afternoon one in Sarasota, FL. As far as the performance was concerned, the two were nearly identical. But the flavor of the two concerts, and my own personal contact with the band, was completely different at each venue. At both concerts, in the usual Ragamuffin style, the guys nonchalantly practiced and dealt with last minute details right there in front of us. They are, as y'all know, down to earth. They opened the first set with a recording of Rich's dulcimer which led them into "My Deliverer." Then they played "Surely God is with Us," after Rick re-tuned, commenting that maybe it was more authentic out of tune. "You Didn't Have a Home" followed. Then Mark spoke about how they had just about convinced Rich that he should do TJR vocals, but as usual Rich wound up getting his way. So they were just keeping up their end of the bargain. He also said that there was one song on TJR that Rich refused to sing, Rich said its writer needed to sing it. And since its writer happened to be here, they would go ahead and sing, "Man of No Reputation." Next Mark sang "Somewhere," and Rick followed with "Nothing is Beyond You." Rick "apologized" ahead of time for this one, commenting that Amy G. was alot easier on the eyes and ears than he is. I don't know that I agree... Someone among them said that for the Spring tour, they had learned some new songs. Mark amended that comment, saying that they had added new songs, but not necessarily LEARNED them. Yep, Mark was right. It was endearing to note the times that lyrics were forgotten, somehow so familiar and human. Jimmy said Rich's songs were amazing, and that they'd played them for years, and yet somehow he never learned the lyrics. Poetic justice, he figured. Until this point at the Jacksonville concert, I felt a weird flatness. I couldn't tell if it was something the band was experiencing, or whether it was just the sadness I felt in hearing Rich's music, but not hearing him. I think that being the first concert after a 9 week break, maybe the guys were just re-adjusting. And there seemed to be a lot of teens who had this "concert excitement" that sometimes seemed out of place. You could just tell they didn't really know much about Rich and the Rags. God bless 'em for their enthusiasm, but it just stood out to me. Well, then Rick explained about visiting Rich at Window Rock the week before his accident. He said Rich was SO excited about TJR project. He said Rich knew he was a city boy who would be "paralyzed" if he found himself in a meadow, so Rich made sure he worked it out that Rick would have to come to Window Rock to discuss TJR. In this place in the middle of nowhere, Rick sat with Rich in the one-room hogan Rich built with his own hands. Rick sat dumbfounded as he listened to the most articulate song about doubt and struggle in a Christian's life that he had ever heard. Needless to say, Rick followed this story with "Hard to Get." Then Rick said the next song was one he and most of the band hated. But for whatever reason, Rich liked it and would force them to play it. Now since Rich is gone, Rick has come to like "Sing Your Praise to the Lord." Of course they did the longer (and IMHO much better) version of the song. It was at this point in the Jacksonville concert that everyone seemed to relax and just worship. After an intermission, the table and cups were rolled out. What a blast, I'll never get tired of watching "Screen Door on a Submarine." According to Mark, they have performed this song at least 300 times, with many different combinations of people. He said by far, this is the worst combination. If it was, we didn't know any better. Mark, Jimmy, Carl, and Aaron stepped up to the cups with fearless anticipation, and proceeded to whip that number to a standing ovation. (Oh, BTW, that's Carl Herrgesell, known to the band as the Junior Ragamuffin, and wonderfully gifted on the keyboards and vocals.) Next they played "Here in America," which Rick said they never played live with Rich. They followed that with Rick's favorite Rich song: "Elijah." Carl offered that touching solo. Then Aaron took front stage, and recited the portion of Ephesians 6 that calls us to stand in the full armor of God. He sang "If I Stand" with heartfelt simplicity and conviction. Somewhere in here, Jimmy said in case we didn't know, we're havin' church. Jimmy picked up the pennywhistle, and they were off into a soulful version of "The Color Green." Rick took a moment to reflect on the fact that Rich was the most profound example of all that it is to be human, to be on this planet, and to be a man of faith. Next, Jimmy sang "Hold Me Jesus." Then it seems to me (my memory fails me) that Rick did lead vocals on "Peace of Christ," "Calling Out Your Name," "I See You" (I DO remember we sang along to this), "Awesome God" (even the babies were rockin' to this), and "Creed." Rick and the crowd sang especially loud when we got to "I believe in the RESURRECTION, I believe in a life that NEVER ENDS," at which point, I for one could not hold back tears. They then left the stage, tho' we all knew no one was quite ready to call it quits. When the band came back, they sang "That Where I Am" -- Carl has this great falsetto that led out with the ladies' part. Then, a most wonderful gift: Rick spoke a length about Rich. How after he died, everyone got together and laughed alot and cried a bit. They walked around with these little TJR demo cassettes. How he misses Rich now just about every day. That none of the band wants to deify Rich, he was nowhere near perfect. Rick: "Heck, we used to joke with him that if anyone really got to know him, they wouldn't invite him for dinner, let alone buy his albums." :) Yet, in spite the fact that Rich had become incredibly successful in CCM, his belongings when he died were packed up in the back of a UHaul. He had given it all away. The band wrapped up both evenings with us singing "Step by Step" and the Doxology, which we sang alone after they walked offstage. Though words leave me unsatisfied in describing the experience, it was powerful. After the Jacksonville concert, I gave Jimmy the booklet of all our prayers and well-wishes. He said he couldn't wait to read it -- he subscribes to the list, but usually doesn't have time to read any of it. But I knew he would make time to read the booklet. Sure enough, after the Sarasota concert, he told me how much they all loved the booklet, that it was awesome. I don't think I'd go that far, but I was happy that we were able to minister to them a little. After the Sarasota concert, there was an air of completion and relaxation after a very busy weekend. The guys just hung out and were so gracious to answer questions and sign autographs. This was probably just as meaningful to me as the concert itself. We took pictures (I'll send some if you guys want), and laughed alot. I asked Mark to describe the Rich he knew in a nutshell (knowing what a ridiculous impossibility that would be). He said, "In a nutshell? He was a nut, in a nutshell." And went on to tell me Rich was the best Christian he ever met. Was everything everyone is, only MORE. How he had the worst temper, and was the most generous. Jimmy told me a funny story of a time they were eating at a church before a concert. Something awful had been added to the main course. Everyone there graciously tried to avoid eating it. Everyone but Rich, who chowed it down and went on for seconds. Either he was oblivious ("He was weird with food -- he ate ANYTHING in huge quantities"), or outrageously gracious. Then, we talked about Window Rock. How he felt Rich was realizing he did more good for the the Rez by leaving to raise money with his music, than to live there and become entrenched in the details of local life. Jimmy sensed he was planning to move back to maybe Chicago. He mentioned how uncomfortable Rich was here on this planet. And he said finally that if there is anyone's passing we can truly celebrate, it is Rich's. It's what Rich longed for.
Return to top