In our current culture war, secular progressive atheists, like myself, are led to believe that evangelical Christians are tongue-speaking homophobes who only worry about the apocalypse. So you can understand my excitement when I walked into the Wells Fargo Theatre on Tuesday for Christian-rock icon Michael W. Smith’s performance. As I found my seat between two right-wing cougars, I was limp with excitement for the moment when everyone would stand, throw their hands in the air and sing “Our God is an awesome God” with their eyes closed. Unfortunately, like most stereotypes, no one tells you how average and boring the other side is.
Tuesday night’s show was part of Michael W. Smith’s Christmas tour. Sure, the audience and stage may well have been populated by Bush-supporting homophobes, but you wouldn’t know it by the set list. In fact, despite a few diatribes between traditional Christmas songs it was hard to tell that the night’s headliner was a Christian musician. Michael W. Smith could have easily been mistaken for a secular performer (gasp!).
While I was initially disappointed the concert didn’t live up to the zealot hype I had in my mind, I was impressed by the range Smith displayed as a composer. Some of his original material at times sounded like it was pulled from a feel-good movie’s soundtrack, but others showed strength that put it on par with Danny Elfman. Ultimately, the Colorado Chamber Orchestra stole the show on all of the instrumental numbers.
Smith was also backed by a number of talented vocalists, most notably George Huff of “American Idol” fame, who belted out a number that made me feel like calling him dog. However, it was the traditional Christmas songs that were the most disappointing. I have always felt that Christian music was cheesy, but oddly enough the few overtly Christian songs he performed felt visceral and powerful while “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” felt forced and superficial.
I might have initially been disappointed that the concert didn’t live up to the Jesus Camp hype I’d hoped for, but I was ultimately content with a slightly cheesy, family-friendly, holiday show. Excuse me, Christmas show, because He is the reason for the season.
Kevin O’Brien is a Denver-based comedian and writer. You can keep up with his disdain for pop culture at http://the-arcane.blogspot.com.