Have you ever noticed that when we talk about events, we never say we’re looking forward to the end of an event, but the beginning? Times of beginning stir up anticipation and excitement. And if you’re a Gospel Music fan experiencing a bit of cabin fever, then maybe you’ve felt that kind of anticipation about the Winter Convention in Bradenton, Florida. For many years, promoter Bill Bailey has brought Gospel Music to winter weary fans and this year, it kicked off Monday night with folks like Josh and Ashley Franks, The Guardians, Perry’s, Booth Brothers and the Hoppers.
Entering the building, I found myself a seat high in the risers and enjoyed the evening. The first artist of the night was the energetic duo, Josh and Ashley Franks. Their set featured Ashley on most of the songs, such as “No Other Name Like Jesus” and “Just In Like Days Gone By.” After those two songs, Josh exclaimed, “Somebody say amen!” That short phrase introduced the next song, “I Am Blessed.” If there was a theme to the Franks set, blessings just had to be it. For next, Ashley sang about all the things we’ve been given by God in a slower song, “I’ve Been Just As Blessed.” Before they closed their set, Josh shared how before Jerry Goff passed, he recommended this song to them. It was nine other than “There’s A Meeting.” On the last chorus, the Guardians came out on stage and helped them finish the song.
After the last note was sung, The Guardians track for “Woke Up This Morning” kicked off and the quartet began their set. “If you walked into 2020 with a burden,” John encouraged, “then this song is for you.” He went on to sing a lyric called, “Gods On Your Side,” a moving song that spoke comfort into the hearts of the broken. Following, Pat was featured on a tune called, “I’ve Got A Feeling.” When the song came to a close, Pat explained, “We just got off a cruise and I haven’t done the math yet, but I think I gained 75 pounds!” Folks chuckled, but when he added, “Just give us a moment,” and acted out of breath, the folks really laughed. (I don’t think they were expecting that! lol!) Group introductions were next and Pat took extra time to explain that Neil, one of their founding members, was recovering from recent heart surgery and that Scott Mullins was filling in for him. Naturally, the next song featured Scott and he did a great job on it – it was the old hymn, “Until Then.” Immediately following was “The Lord’s Prayer.” And this powerful ballad had the crowd on their feet in a standing ovation. “Aren’t you glad we serve a big God tonight?” asked Pat as the crowd applauded. Their medley of “How Big Is God,” “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” and “How Great Is Our God” closed their set in a spirit of worship.
When the Guardians came off stage, Troy Burns came on and led the crowd in the National Anthem and then Pastor Bill brought The Perry’s on stage. The Perry’s started with “I Know It Was The Blood,” “Rest My Case At The Cross,” and “It Never Gets Old.” After those few songs, Libbi shared that at this time three years ago, they made the decision to take Tracy off the ventilator. That day at the hospital, Michael and Vickie Booth came and sat with them for four or five hours just doing what the Bible says, bearing one anothers burdens. She told the crowd her respect for them skyrocketed after that day. This introduced a new song, “Walk Me Through.” “Walking Down Damascus Road” followed and Michael Booth came on stage and joined them on the encore. “If you enjoyed the Perry’s tonight, would you let them know it!” Exclaimed Troy. Then, turning to where Michael just stepped off stage, added, “How ‘bout it for Michael Booth!”
When Pastor Bill came on stage to bring on the next group, he exclaimed, “They’ve been the most awarded trio in the last decade, Ronnie, Michael and Paul – The Booth Brothers!” The trio came out with an easy listening tune, “Feeling At Home” and then followed with two songs that featured Paul, “Are You Washed In The Blood” and “Moment Of Grace.” For Monday night, all the artists kept talking to a minimum and transitioned from song to song seamlessly. The Booth Brothers followed this pattern and before we knew it, Ronnie sang “Three Wooden Crosses” and then Michael said, “See if you remember this,” as the intro for “Lord, I Hope This Day Is Good” began. From one fun song to another, Michael introduced “He Saw It All” with a simple, yet, repetitive intro. Apparently, Michael’s intro tickled Ronnie and before he could get the first line out, Ronnie laughed and said, “Take a pill!” The crowd chuckled with Ronnie. Afterwards, they sang “Feeling Mighty Fine” and Michael called Pat Barker from the Guardians up on stage to sing the bass part. The crowd loved this and before the end, popped up in a standing ovation! “When Pat takes the stage,” Michael said, “great things happen.” The crowd chuckled and then Michael shared a few things about their 30 year history as a trio before going into their final song, “Then I Met The Master.” As the intro played, Ronnie told the crowd, “This is my favorite Mosie Lister song.” For the next five minutes or so, the sweet strains of that ballad permeated the room and encouraged the crowd with the life changing message of Jesus.
When Pastor Bill walked on stage to introduce the next group, it was with a chocolate ice cream cone in his hand! He joked, “You were meeting the master and I was meeting the ice cream truck!” LOL! The final artist of the night was The Hoppers, and when they came on stage Dean asked, “Weren’t the Booth Brothers awesome?” The Hoppers kicked off their portion of the evening with “Jerusalem” and “I Wouldn’t Take Nothing For My Journey.” After those two songs, Claude took a few moments to share some jokes with the crowd. One time he went to the gym and asked, “What one of these machines will make me more attractive to the ladies?” The instructor answered, “You’ll find that out front, it’s called an ATM machine.” LOL! “I’ve Come Too Far To Look Back,” “He Looked Beyond My Fault” and “Yes, I Am” followed. And if you think those were some power packed songs, they finished out their set with “Something’s Happening” and “We Are America.”
After the intermission, Pastor Bill brought all the artists back on stage for a parade of hits. Song after song, groups came forward to sing some of the most popular tunes from years gone by. These songs featured the Guardians with “Singing With The Saints,” the Perry’s “I Wish I Could Have Been There,” “Happy Rhythm” with the Booth Brothers, the Hoppers “Yahweh,” Josh and Ashley singing “Lily Of The Valley” and “Celebrate Me Home” from the Perrys. Closing the evening, Michael sang “Look For Me At Jesus’ Feet” and Kim with a special request from Bill – “When He Comes Down.” Of course, the final number of the night was “Shoutin’ Time.”
Conclusion: Monday night was a great kick off to the Winter Convention. Top groups, great songs and most importantly, warm weather and palm trees dancing in the breeze! All the artists did a great job delivering their music and we had quite a few laughs the first night. Can’t wait to see what the rest of the week has in store!