He’s hitting the road for his fall tour in September, but I got to see a preview earlier this month. The SCC Solo tour is definitely worth checking out.
It is confession time. Steven Curtis Chapman (SCC) has been a dominant force in Christian music for three decades, selling more than 11 million albums, but I have never warmed to his music. As a programmer I have played his stuff on the radio stations I have worked at, but I have never felt any sort of emotional attachment to the songs.
So why did I attend this solo show in Old Orchard Beach, Maine? Well, I’ve never seen Steven perform a solo show. Call it professional curiosity. There’s also the matter of not having been to any concerts in the past 10 months that weren’t German and classical music. Under those circumstances SCC was better than nothing.
I came away impressed. I don’t like the songs any better, but there was as much banter and background as singing. This was a “history of Steven Curtis Chapman” show, perhaps appropriate timing given that he has just published an autobiography (which I didn’t buy). The music may not grab me, but the story did.
I now know why the “Curtis” in his stage name, that his brother was the one who should have gone on to a music career, that Steven was pre-med in college – all interesting trivia entertainingly told.
One of the measures of a performer is how well the songs stack up in an acoustic setting. You can hide a lot with a full band, but when it is just voice accompanied by guitar or piano, that’s a little different. Some songs, such as “For the Sake of the Call,” stood out for me as being superior to the original record. Others, like “The Great Adventure,” seemed weaker without the power of the band.
With 24 albums and counting, Steven has a couple hundred songs he could play in the show. Someone is bound to have a favourite that doesn’t make the set list. To remedy that, SCC took requests from the audience and played a hook or chorus from each song requested. Or sometimes not even that much – he freely admitted that some songs he just couldn’t remember. It made for an intimate moment for an audience made up it seemed of die-hard fans.
Those fans knew his story, as Steven kept reminding them, so there were parts of his career and his family life that were just assumed, including the tragic death of one of his children. No need to go into the details of such things when everyone knows about them.
The relationship between singer and audience also allowed for the polite acceptance of an appeal for Show Hope, the international adoption agency Chapman and his family founded. The foundation does worthy work – but I thought the more than 30-minute plug was a bit long.
Steven Curtis Chapman fans will love this show, which so far only has US tour dates. I think also it would be a good entry point for someone not familiar with his music. The songs themselves may not grab you, but the man and his story will.