As I took a front row seat at the Brookline First Baptist Church in Springfield, Missouri, the pastor and music director taped a sign that said, “Welcome Brian Free and Assurance,” to the carpeted stage. I was delighted with finding a seat in the front, and after making some new friends and catching up with some old ones, I waited for the concert to begin.
Soon, the pastor came up on stage and entertained us with some trivia before introducing BFA. “I use to sing with Brian Free and Assurance,” He boldly announced, “I bet some of you didn’t know that.” He went on to explain exactly what he meant. A few years ago BFA sang in Branson, at Silver Dollar City. At one of the shows, they were asking for a volunteer tenor to “duel” Looking For A City with Brian. Before the pastor knew it, his wife was waving her hand and shouting, “My husband will do it!” He said he felt like he made a fool of himself that day. (With the industries best tenor – I’m sure anyone would feel that way!) LOL A few more announcements were made, one of which was congratulating Amanda Howard, who had a birthday that very day! How sweet to spend it there with great encouraging music. When the pastor introduced BFA, he teased the guys by announcing that both the first and second sets would be two hours long! LOL!
Brian Free and Assurance opened their set with Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee, and by the response that the audience gave at its close – this crowd wasn’t too concerned about their Sunday afternoon nap…they were ready for some SGM! With the crowd worked up from the accappella music, Brian asked the crowd to keep their hands together and clap along with the next song, Go Tell The World. Bill eagerly sang the first verse, and then Brian and Derrick shared a duet on the second verse of the song. Before the applause died down, the next track already began; the music was easily identified as the first song off their latest Cd, Anything Is Possible With You. This one also featured Bill, which he began by asking if they could have church that afternoon. I love seeing this number performed live because Bill always sings it with an energy that matches the message! Brian introduced his solo, I Believe, by inviting the crowd to sing along with him if they knew the words. As he stepped up to center stage to begin the verse, I noticed the “Welcome BFA” sign slowly detaching itself from the stage and making its way to the floor. By the end of the song, the last piece of tape gave way to its end…LOL! “Here’s one that goes back a few years,” said Brian, “Some of you may know it, if you do, sing along.” The track for Glory Road played, and the harmonies began. When Brian hit the first high note of the song, it generated a great applause from the crowd. Knowing just how much the audience loves to hear the high parts, Bill turned to Brian at the end of the song and requested, “Can you sing a little bit more of that?” Though Brian said no and insisted that he didn’t want to, he continued anyway. From the expression on his face – he sure didn’t look like he minded singing it again! At the end, Bill poked Brian in the shoulder and I don’t believe Brian could have hid his smile if he tried!
“I love it when people have church,” said Brian. He went on to explain that the reason why they were there was to place Christ first and give Him all the glory. “It’s not about us, and it’s not about you,” said Brian, “It’s all about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. If every single one of us will put that in the forefront of our minds, everyone will leave here different.” He announced that they already had many song requests, turning to Bill he asked, “How many were there?” Bill answered, “183!” Directing his attention to the pastor, Brian replied that two hours for each set wouldn’t even touch the time they would need to perform that many songs! The next one featured their bass singer, Jeremy, on another oldie, Just A Little Talk With Jesus. After that number, Brian asked how many were seeing BFA for the very first time. A considerable amount of hands went up. Brian lightheartedly exclaimed, “As many times as we’ve been in Missouri, where have you been?!” So he introduced the guys next and had little stories to go along with each introduction. Introducing Derrick, Brian stated his height and lightheartedly said, “They grow ‘em big in Florida.” “A few weekends ago we had a flat tire on the bus and he held the back end up while we fixed it!”…pausing a moment, he added, “That’s not true, I just made that up!” So, when Bill was introducing Brian, he said, “Brian is always telling stories about us…do you want to hear one about him?” The crowd liked that idea, so Bill began, “We were leaving Texas (about eight or so years ago) and I was driving the bus. Brian is really particular about how you drive. If you go around a curve a little too fast, he makes these little sound effects in the background.” (As he’s saying this Brian demonstrates for us) “So I’m up front, and he’s back there, and I turn the CBC radio on as loud as I can get it. We travel a few miles down the road and all of the sudden it just stops working. So I said, ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with this CB, Brian, can you come up here and help me.’ He said, (here Bill puts on his most high, feminine, tenor voice he could muster, and says) ‘I can fix that.’” Then, turning to Brian, he says, “I didn’t do that very good.” Brian agrees, everyone laughs, and Bill continues with his story, “So I said, ‘If you think you can fix it, go right ahead.’ First thing he does is start turning knobs, and it didn’t work, so the next thing he does is start wiggling wires, and that didn’t work. By this time, he’s very upset, and when he’s upset he starts throwing these ‘tenor tantrums.’” (Here, Brian questions “Tenor tantrums? What’s a tenor tantrum?”) Bill goes on, “So he just kicks this thing as hard as he can and says, ‘It’s fixed now!’” I said, “No it’s not.” He said, “Yes it is, give me the mic and I’ll prove it.” So I gave him the mic and the first thing he says is, “Breaker! Breaker 190, anyone got the copy on me?” (Again, Bill had that real high voice to imitate “Brian’s” part) Brian protests that it didn’t sound like that! But Bill just keeps on going and says, “And this truck driver heard him, and said, ‘You’re coming in loud and clear there darling! – I’ll meet you at exit 42!’” The audience just exploded with laughter! After it died down, Bill confessed that the truck driver didn’t say that last part, he added it.
That little story went right into Bill’s solo, The Part Where You Come In. At the close of that song, Brian talked about how everyone should remember the day we gave our hearts and lives to Jesus. He also shared the story of how Bill and his wife had the privilege of leading their oldest daughter to the Lord. Then, Brian took a minute or two and talked about his little grandbaby, Jude. Brian’s face just glowed (in Bill’s words) while talking about his little bundle of joy. But just like joy enters life, so does sorrow, and Brian shared that three of the four men on stage had their share of sorrow recently. The fathers of Bill and Jeremy, and both of Brian’s parents passed away within the last year and a half. Through these tough times, they’ve learned now more than ever, that, “Whatever it is, He knows about it, and He cares.” This introduced BFA’s number one single, Never Walk Alone – an encouraging ballad sung by Brian that tells us in all of our sorrows, He is always with us. Another powerful song followed, one that featured Jeremy, called Remind Me Of The Cross. As the track music for Turn The Page began, Brian said, “God is still in the miracle business.” This medium tempo song featured Derrick, and is a favorite of mine off BFA’s Never Walk Alone CD. I love seeing it done live! Jeremy hit the track for the next song and “It will preach” was the intro Brian gave the song that closed their first set. Though this song has a very serious message, the guys were very happy and animated while singing it. The faces Brian was making were hilarious! Bill tip-toed up to the edge of the stage and looked off it at the floor when they would sing the “way down,” parts. ***smile***
Before the offering, Brian informed us of some things that I’m sure not many fans of SGM know, or dare I say, think about very often. After sharing that they were on an eleven day tour that week, he said that in the day in age that we live in, everybody needs to be either in the work of the Gospel or giving to it. The next statistics kind of shocked me, “We spend $125,000 a year on fuel alone. It takes $800 to fill that bus up from empty to full – we do that four or five times a week.” Though it’s an expensive ministry they’re in, in that respect, Brian went on to state that they wouldn’t be doing it unless they believed in what they were doing. “It’s got to make a difference in people’s lives,” Brian said.
When he finished, he turned the platform back over to the pastor, who came up on stage and asked Dave Taylor (the manager for the Southern Gospel radio station in Springfield, MO – KWFC) to pray for the offering. Before he prayed, he complimented Brian by saying that he sounds better now than ever. Brian was still on stage at that time and walked over and gave Dave a BIG bear hug! After the offering, the concert went right into the second half.
“Ya’ll ready for some more singing?” asked Brian, “Here we go!” First Day In Heaven kicked off the second half, then Brian announced that they had a request for a Christmas song, and asked if they could do one. After a hearty applause, Derrick hit the track, then stopped it, thinking it was the wrong one. Brian apologized and said that he gave the wrong song name to Derrick, and after a moment the track for Do You Hear What I Hear started playing. This song of the season featured Jeremy, who did an amazing job!!! Nothing can re-capture Christmas music done live in concert! Bill introduced his next solo by asking the question, “How many of you remember the day that you got saved, I will always remember that day,” and began singing You Must Have Met Him. The good ole’ Cd pitch came next…you would think this would be considered the “boring” part of the evening, but if you know these guys, nothing is boring with them! My favorite part was when Brian was telling the “ladies” that they now sell hand-bags with their picture on them. Of course, Bill had one up there to show it to the audience, and when Brian finished talking about it, Bill slung it over his shoulder and pranced back to the sound board. Brian, as casual as can be, reminded Bill that the bags were for the ladies. Immediately, Bill took the hand-bag off and threw it on the ground, while looking at it like it was a poisonous snake or something! (Goodness, his expressions were just hilarious!!) When they concluded their short “commercial,” they went back to singing a ballad that Brian predicted many would know – For God So Loved. Not long after they began it, the audience began rising to their feet. This song just filled the atmosphere with worship, there was no way a person could look at/listen to those four men pouring out their hearts on stage singing like that and not lift up praises to the Lord! It was so powerful!
Next, Brian gave the Gospel and shared why they’re on the road. Everything he communicated was said in such a way, that, well, you just have to read it in his own words – there’s no way to paraphrase it! “He loved you and me so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, the Savior of the world, to shed His blood for the atonement of your sin and my sin – so that you and I would have the opportunity, the honor and privilege, to give our heart and our life to Jesus. To have the slate wiped clean, cast our sin as far as the east is from the west into the sea of forgetfulness, never to be remembered again. And if we do that, and be born again, we will not perish, but have everlasting life in heaven with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
We pray that you’ve listened to the words of the songs, if you’ve missed those; you’ve missed the whole point in being here. We didn’t come here today to impress you with a show, that’s not us, that’s not our heart. We’ve come to join you in worship. We could have spent the last hour and a half up here and had some choreography worked up, with a nice presentation and slid across the stage and done a few back flips and stuff…it’s out there if that’s what you like. But if you leave talking about that and not the message or what the Holy Spirit has done in your heart today during the songs – if you’ve leave talking about anything else but that, it’s been a wasted day.”
Brian continued with the Gospel, which lead into the part of their program where they give everyone an opportunity to make a decision for Christ. They sang What Will You Choose as the invitation was given, then they closed out the afternoon with Long As I Got King Jesus. This final song kept everyone on their feet and clapping…and even dancing! Not long after the song began, a young man with Down ’s Syndrome came up in front of the stage and stayed there dancing to the beat, right on to the very end of the song! What a way to end the concert!!!
Conclusion: Once again, these guys gave another AMAZING concert! Every time I see BFA, something different stands out to me. This time, it was seeing something that Brian said – happen! In the second italicized paragraph, Brian addressed what you talk about when you leave a concert. Spiritual things, or carnal things? Throughout the afternoon, he also spoke about some issues that we see occurring in our nation – well, after the concert, while I was in line at the ladies room, a couple of the women were talking about some of those very things he addressed while on stage! I guess some of the statements he made impacted them, and so this conversation began (though, it a somewhat odd place. LOL). I just had to smile to myself upon hearing their conversation and arguments over the things spoken of…yep, Brian hit the nail on the head when he said, “If you leave talking about anything else than what the Spirit’s done in your heart – it’s a wasted day.” Concluding from the conversation I overheard – BFA’s time in Springfield, Missouri wasn’t wasted at all! That’s one of the things that I love about BFA, these guys are not afraid to stand up for and speak the truth! Thanks guys, for demonstrating real faith to all who are privileged to see ya’ll sing about Jesus!
“Know exactly what the truth is.”