BY MELISSA RUGGIERI
Regardless of the season, regardless of the type of songs being performed, a constant with Amy Grant is her authenticity.
And when she’s paired with longtime friend and musical comrade Michael W. Smith, she exudes a level of comfortableness equaled only by her joint offerings with husband Vince Gill.
On Monday night, in front of a crowd close to 4,000 at the Fox Theatre, Smith, Grant, their respective band members and the Georgia Symphony Orchestra reflected the true spirit of Christmas as they glided through two sets of emotionally soaked songs.
Throughout the concert, Smith and Grant took turns singing selections from their healthy catalog of Christmas material – each offered their arrangements of “Jingle Bells” – with one usually sitting on a nearby chair watching the other with unforced interest.
Theirs is the type of chemistry that can only come with three-plus decades of friendship (when a fan yelled the obligatory "I love you, Amy," Smith took a nanosecond to quip, "So does her husband."); it's no wonder that Smith mentioned that while
this season's joint tour contained stops only in Dallas, Minneapolis and Atlanta,
next year they plan to expand their itinerary together.
Whether Smith, a phenomenal musician and composer, was seated behind his grand piano in his dapper suit, leading the crowd through a sing-along of “How Great Thou Art” or he and Grant were asking military members both active and veteran to stand for recognition before Grant’s sublime take on the melancholy “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” the show always offered heart.
The unguarded Grant had a bemused-looking Smitty – and the audience – chuckling when she announced after her timelessly elegant “Tennessee Christmas,” “I was having a hot flash during that song.”
But there was no greater moment of unfiltered sentiment than when Grant shared with the audience the extent of her father’s dementia and his possible recognition of her following a show with Gill in Nashville last week. Her voice cracking, Grant somehow managed to deliver the poignant “Heirlooms” without coming completely unglued.
The twosome, longtime titans of the contemporary Christian music genre, spotlighted their religious roots on the thoughtful “Almost There,” from Smith’s latest Christmas album, “The Spirit of Christmas” (the title track, steered by conductor David Hamilton, sounded record-perfect with its glorious swoops and swells).
After a 20-minute intermission, Smith and Grant – now clad in a sleeveless green gown – returned for “Christmastime,” one of Smith’s most sumptuous compositions from his 1998 album of the same name.
Fans were treated to the pretty tinklings that pepper “Love Has Come” – always a pleasure to hear a pop song in 7/8 time signature – before Grant again donned her acoustic guitar, reminded us that “Your life is meant to be like nobody else’s,” and launched into 2008’s “I Need a Silent Night.”
The song, with relatable lyrics such as “December comes then disappears/Faster and faster every year/Did my own mother keep this pace/Or was the world a different place?”, paired perfectly with Grant’s rendition of the pensive “Grown-Up Christmas List,” a ballad she has truly made her own over the years.
The combination of Grant’s effortless genuineness and Smith’s musical prowess proved not only a delectable combination for a holiday event, but served as a reminder of the beauty of being in sync.
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