Reviewed by Tony Cummings
I know a pop star and when I'm next up at his house I'm going to take this DVD with me to show him. For if you want one artefact which concisely displays the depth of Larry Norman's genius, this will do nicely. The grizzled Jesus music pioneer comes on stage with just an acoustic guitar and reels off three songs, "The Outlaw", "God Part Three" (where he forgets the words and brilliantly turns it around asking suggestions for verses from the crowd) and "U.F.O.". Each song is a classic, packed with brilliant concepts and images they make most modern CCM songs seem like banal doggerel. Then we have the first of Larry's monologues which these days take up a good part of his live concerts and they work too with "Growing Up" recounting tales of a Sinatra-fan father and his hatred for rock'n'roll interspersed with hilarious snatches of "Fly Me To The Moon" and "I'm In The Mood For Love". Then it's two more classic songs "Six Sixty Six" and "Song For A Small Circle Of Friends" with another monologue, an overlong "who do we have in the audience" item and the only really unnecessary element on Part 1 of the DVD. I may not show my friend Part 2. By then Larry flags a bit though it starts off with another stone classic "I Wish We'd All Been Ready", the song which did for theology of the rapture in the '60s what the Left Behind books did in more recent times. After this breathtakingly poignant song Larry begins a reminiscence of childhood music practices before, appropriately enough, he introduces his sister Nancy and they sing a comic song about a dog they'd last sung 38 years earlier. That's followed by a coded slave song, "Follow The Drinking Gourd", on which brother and sister are joined by a conga player. More musos (including a guy with a saw!) appear as Larry "proves" that doowop music comes out of black church music before a slow and bluesy version of another timeless spiritual "Swing Low Sweet Chariot". Larry's voice starts to crack on "My Feet Are On The Rock" but the addition of a drummer and some electric blues from brother Charlie just about carry it through. "The Rock That Doesn't Roll" is also vocally challenging but again the bonhomie and guests pull it together. Time for anther classic and "Why Don't You Look Into Jesus" is given a slow and engagingly shambolic treatment though one wonders why Larry pulls back on the famed "gonorrhoea on St Valentine's day" line. Then a talk about the war followed by an all friends together version of Newton's "Amazing Grace". This concert in Beaverton (70 miles from Lebanon, Oregon) is a warmly emotive snapshot of a genius songsmith who, although in obviously poor health, is in the warm atmosphere of sympathetic audience and on stage family and friends, is having a whale of a time. Impressively, this DVD is far more than a memento of a great talent in his final run before he goes home. It's a reminder that great songs always stir the heart.
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