Photo via brandonheath.net
I had the pleasure of attending a Brandon Heath concert on Feb. 4, in Oroville. I’m always surprised by the names that pass through this area. Heath was in town doing a fundraising benefit concert for the Axiom, a youth center in downtown Oroville. For those who don’t know, Heath is a Grammy-nominated, Dove-award (the Christian world’s version of a Grammy) winning, Billboard chart-topping contemporary Christian music singer. In other words, he’s a pretty big deal in the world of CCM.
At the packed, sold-out show at the Oroville Church of the Nazarene, he proved why. But not in the way he dressed (he came on stage looking like a youth pastor: in jeans (not skinny ones, either), a blousy button-down orange shirt and a baseball cap); or in the way he sounded (don’t get me wrong, he has a remarkable voice and sounds just like he does on the radio and he is obviously comfortable with the guitar). What impressed me the most was his stage presence. He has gobs of it—the man knows how to handle a crowd.
There had been technical issues throughout the evening with the opening bands (Jacob Thomas and I Am They), and Heath’s set was no exception. There were problems with sound (as in, there was none coming from his guitar) so Heath jumped off the stage and began singing “Wait and See,” a song he must’ve known would be familiar with the crowd, getting them to sing along until the sound guy figured out which cable to plug into what. He turned a potentially awkward moment into crowd-bonding. Smooth. And that was just the first song.
His off-the-cuff humor was perfectly timed and hilarious. At one point, a baby yelled while he was singing, and he incorporated, “You go, girl” into the song. And then afterward, apologized because the baby could have been a boy. He didn’t want the baby to be traumatized by being called a girl during a concert (but for the record, it was a girl. He has a good ear).
Big ups also go to his keyboardist/Ed McMahon-like sidekick, Joe (We love you Jojo!) Moralez, who himself had a wonderful voice and provided surprisingly high counterpoint harmony to Heath. They had a vocal blend so tight it would make your grandma’s knitting jealous. The two also had great rapport onstage, trading quips with ease. At one point, Jojo actually made tea for Heath during the songs when he wasn’t needed. You gotta love thoughtfulness like that.
Heath played a lot of his goodies, including, “I’m Not Who I Was,” “Give Me Your Eyes,” “Leaving Eden,” “Your Love,” “The Light in Me” and concluded his encore with the Beatles, “All You Need is Love.”
There were no fancy lighting tricks, no fireworks on stage, no elaborate costume changes. It was just two guys onstage with a keyboard and a guitar, and yet they created a warm, thoroughly enjoyable, musical world.
Jammie Karlman is the entertainment editor for the Chico Enterprise-Record. Contact her at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @JammieKarlman