Hundreds of Booth Brother fans gathered in the Cherry Street Baptist Church parking lot in 40 degree weather waiting for the doors to open. Twenty more minutes and we were in! Once our group settled into a fourth row seat (or should I say pew?), we waited for some of our friends to arrive. I guess I underestimated exactly how long the line was! When our friends arrived they said they had to stand in line for five minutes to get in! (I would say we were already in the building for at least fifteen minutes before they arrived.)
The concert promoter, Gary Longstaff, walked up on stage and led the audience in singing O How I Love Jesus, then announced, “Tonight there are 750 people here who really love the Booth Brothers!” As he made a few announcements, I couldn’t help but notice a lady standing to the side interpreting everything into sign language. Two rows of pews in front of us were occupied by a group of youth who were deaf. The concept of someone who couldn’t hear being at a concert was something totally new to me, but honestly, after that experience, I have to say it is one that will leave a large impact on me. The whole scene was very touching.
The Booth Brothers opened with a ballad called Absolute Peace, then stirred the audience up with their up tempo I See Grace. At the end of the song a thunderus applause erupted, along with the special way that the deaf applaud (which consists of lifting your hands in the air and rocking them back and forth). Ronnie said, “There ain’t no place like Missouri is all I have to say!” He went on to sing his solo, I’m The Lamb. Next, they sang a hymn-like song titled, His Grace Is Sufficient, featuring Jim. Through this song, the words were posted on slides on the projection panels, and when they encored it acapella, the lyrics sounded even sweeter! One of the guys counted off and Welcome To The Family began with a infectous beat that had all 750 of us clapping in seconds. On the last verse/bridge where each of the guys sing a line, Michael forgot the words and instead sang, “And I forgot the words to this part, but I’ll make it up as I go…” Jim and Ronnie were barley stiffleing the laughter from the looks of it while Michael acted as if it was the most natural thing! The audience sure giggled! We Believe followed. Michael was featured on the first verse and held his Bible while singing as a visual of what was being sung, then passed the Word onto Jim as he took the next verse and finally to Ronnie before the powerful chorus raised everyone from their seats in ovation. “Though the world is in turmoil,” Michael said, “and it does affect us to some extent, we can still come here and say we believe.” He went on to talk a little about the hymns, and how they are being replaced by newer music in churches, to which he received a hearty applause. Michael exclaimed, “This is going to be easier than in Massachusetts!” Once again on a serious note, he said that they have nothing against new music, after all, they are singing some of it, but they are concerned that what is replacing the hymns is not as good or more effective than what is being taken out. These meditative thoughts introduced a hymn medley they sang acapella, and received a standing ovation for. Next on the set was Trading This Old Cross In For A Crown featuring Jim Brady. What blessed me the most about this song was watching the sign language interpreter and how she interacted with the hearing impaired. There was one young man on the front row who was signing the song along with her, to assure that he was getting the right meaning. By the end of the song the whole audience was on their feet clapping to the happy music, and the two rows in front of us were signing the WHOLE CHORUS! Many encores followed and it was so great to watch and see that even though these people couldn’t hear the words, they understood the message. Michael talked about the Jubilee Cd’s as an intro to the song that Jim wrote, Don’t Hang Your Head And Cry. When the song ended Michael was saying how they are real good buddies with Legacy Five, and how when Vicki (his wife) decided they wanted to repaint the inside of their house, Glenn Dustin came over and helped them. He went on about what a good friend Glenn is, then said, “a few weeks later, Glenn and his familiy moved and if I was a good friend I suppose I would have went and helped them,”…Jim interrupted him asking, “Yeah, why didn’t you show up?” Michael replied, “I was still home praying about it!” Michael went on to talk about how they had Tim Parton arrange a Cathedral quartet song into a three part harmony, so they could prove to the world that a trio can sing quartet songs. Making a funny face he said, “they go on about their bass singers…yackety-yack,yackety-yack….then turned to the sign language interrpreter and asked, “How do you say yackety-yack, yack in sign language?” The lady replied by moving her index finger over her hand really fast. So Michael began doing that sign too while he said the corresponding words! Such a goof! There was another one that they do acapella, and Michael proudly was telling the audience how Anthony Burger once taught him to find a certain note on the piano…and it just so happened to be the same key that this song was in. So he waltzes over to the piano to find his note, then suddenly stops saying, “uh-oh, we have a problem!” Jim and Ronnie roll their eyes and ask, “What?” Michael goes, “It’s not the same kind of piano!” Jim says, “Michael, all pianos are the same, there’s no difference really!” Michael replies, “Oh no, this one is different all right! You see, this is a Yameha and Anthony taught me on a Baldwin, and the note I need just happens to be under the B! I don’t know, maybe it’s the Y or A?” – with one of those looks that only Michael can give! Jim says, “Well, I have it on my phone we could just listen to it to get our note.” Michael looks at him like he’s just seen ghost and says, “WHAT?! You brought your phone on stage!” Then it starts ringing. Jim says, “Oh! I have to answer that!” Michael says, “No, don’t do it…(giving a sideways glance at the crowd)…it’s rude.” Then he looks at the audience like he’s shocked Jim would do such a thing…to which Jim says, “Glad I took that call, I just saved 15% on my car insurance!” After the Cathedral song Sing His Praises, they went into All Over The World. Michael began talking about something he saw on the internet about a Islamic Mosque that had been burned to the ground and a Baptist church let the Muslims use their building to worship in. The audience groaned in response. Going on to explain why that was not right, he gave an example: a lady came and told him, “When our church burned down a Catholic Church let us worship in their building.” Michael explained the difference, because many Catholics believe in Christ, whereas the Muslims do not. They worship a completely different “god.” He encouraged the audience to, “Be careful of any religion that questions the authority and accuracy of the Word of God.“ Then Ronnie came and sang God Did It All, closing their first set in a standing ovation and a roof raising applause!
Coming back on the second set they featured Ronnie on their famous song He Saw It All. Michael began singing Look For Me At Jesus Feet, and the crowd roared their approval. There Is A Higher Throne followed along with a snazzy number featuring Jim called I’m Forgiven. Michael completely let go on this one and showed off his dancing skills. Which at one point consisted of twirling his microphone stand and kicking his legs up in the air! Before the next song began, Ronnie asked, “What were you thinking, doing that?” Michael replies, “You don’t want to know!” Turning to the audience, continuing, “Many times people will come up to me and ask what I think about when I’m singing, and I tell them, ‘you really don’t want to know’! Ya‘ll bring out the whatever in me…I wouldn‘t call it my best!” Ronnie presses, “Actually, I think we do want to know!” Michael shakes his head and reluctantly says, “Do you all remember Bugs Bunny? Well, their was this one episode where he goes to work at this construction site and there is this little box, and when you open it there’s this frog that pops up and starts marching like this”. (He gives a demonstration across the stage.) Once the silly stuff was out of the way he took on once again a serious note, saying how, “sin effects everbody – and Christ came to take care of it.” He also quoted Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.” Jim came forward then and sang the great classic, Tears Are The Language God Understands. Michael talked about the Holy Spirit convicting Believers and how that is assurance that we know Christ, to which Secret Place followed, receiving a standing ovation. When the applause died down and everyone was seated again, there remained one young teen on the front row who was deaf, he remainded standing and kept clapping. And you know what Michael did when he looked over and saw that young man standing there clapping? You could just see the moment grip his heart on his face … He came down off the stage and walked over to that teen boy and gave him a big bear hug of an embrace! (Everyone started clapping again!) It was very touching! The concert ended with Michael giving the gospel presentation, and closing in prayer. He was especially burdened about people not hearing the Word of God at Southern Gospel Music concerts. He stated that people have emailed him telling him he needed to stop giving the gospel or people are going to quit coming out to their concerts. Very solemnly Michael spoke to all, “Apparently this person didn’t understand. The Word of God doesn’t say ’faith comes by hearing and hearing by Southern Gospel Music, does it? No, faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” Conclusion: the night totally amazed me! The music was awesome, the messages clear and founded on the Word of God, and it went out with power! The presence of the sign language interpreter and the group of those who couldn’t hear blessed the whole audience that night. I dare say that it caused us who could hear not to take for granted our ability to enjoy listening to music, and hear someone speak about the Lord, … I’m so proud of all the guys for standing up for what they believe in, bringing the Bible – the Word of God – out on stage, and speaking in love what we sadly don’t want to hear anymore. Thanks guys, for standing strong!…and come back to MO soon!