March 8, 2010 – Birchmere Music Hall, Alexandria, VA
Jennifer Knapp is my favorite musical artist of all time. Her music has been instrumental in helping me survive some of the darkest days of my life. Her lyrics, both past and present, have always been straightforward, yet pensive; heart-wrenching yet redemptive. Jen returned to what she does best last fall after a 7 years hiatus and will have a new album out on May 11, 2010, appropriately titled “Letting Go”. I have been a fan since late 1999 and a decade later, her songs still speak volumes to me.
The concert on Monday, March 8, 2010 marked my first time in 7 years seeing Jennifer Knapp LIVE. [This was my 9th time seeing her live. Whoa!] She, along with Nashville-based singer/songwriter Amy Courts and “controversial” yet talented artist Derek Webb, are currently touring the country in anticipation of Jen’s new studio album. Concert go-ers had the opportunity to pre-order the new album, and received a CD entitled “Evolving” — featuring acoustic demos of her new songs. This is probably the best music I’ve heard in a long time.
Excitement was brewing as Amy Courts and Derek Webb took the stage before Jen made her debut… sharing stories with audience about how Jen’s music had impacted their lives. Amy Courts, who stated that Jen’s music inspired her to move to Nashville to kick off a career in music, also noted that she was thrilled to finally hear someone [then, in CCM] who was not “lame”. Derek Webb psyched up the audience by speaking the [ugly] truth in love by playing tunes such as “What Matters Most” and “The Savior on Capitol Hill“. Then, during intermission, many of us scrambled to use the facilities, order more drinks and stopped by the merchandise tables before Jennifer Knapp took the stage.
“It’s a blessing to be doing something so joyful again…” stated Jen, in regard to her recent *COMEBACK*.
The next hour or so was the most surreal concert experience of my life. That night, I was stuck in the present moment and had the opportunity to think critically about what Jennifer Knapp’s songs, both old and new, mean to me today. It was amazing to see the same lyrics speak to me in a completely different light. Jen’s new songs, especially “On Love”, “Fallen” and “Stone to the River“, shows extreme lyrical maturity, yet still retained the same (to quote Darren) “unmistakable sultry voice” and stellar acoustic guitar skills we have grown to love. The subject matter on the new record is also more challenging, and might burst someone’s “bubble”, but isn’t that the point of true art?
Thanks to Amy Courts — who helped Jen remember some of the older songs post-sabbatical and provided glorious back-up vocals — Jen was also able to play some familiar old tunes from her previous records. The most poignant moment of the evening occurred during the song “Fall Down“, an *oldie* from “The Way I Am”. I was moved to tears as I saw the “tough chick” pour out her heart and soul, tears falling down her face, during this agonizing but hopeful song. The past 7 years has not been a walk in the park for either one of us, and I can not begin to comprehend the pain and guilt Jen has endured for not jumping on the CCM bandwagon and staying out of the public’s eye. All I can say that I’m glad we both had ample time to get away from everything that was familiar and do a bit of soul-searching abroad (her in the Australian outback, me in Bella Italia) and let go in order to come back. During the encore, Jen came back and shared the stage with Amy and Derek, performing one of Amy’s songs and one of her own as well (see below).
All in all, it was a memorable evening and I must have had a SMILE plastered on my face from start to finish (and the days to follow). There was an element of *LOVE* in all the songs Jen chose for the set list that night. I thoroughly enjoyed laughing in response to the many stories Jennifer Knapp told, and the jokes she passed on as well. It was also special to attend this epic concert with another Jen Knapp fan, the ever-lovely Jess Lue, who was the one that told me about her return to music. After the show, Jen was gracious enough to come out and meet with some hard-core fans and pose for the obligatory fan photo opt. She remains as humble and gracious as she’s always been.
It is evident that Jennifer Knapp is someone who clearly understands Scripture and takes God seriously, knowing that our faith journeys are not some happy go-lucky spiritual high, but instead always finding ourselves in need of grace, forgiveness and mercy. I admire the fact that she asked and is still asking the tough questions of faith and life, no matter how others view her. There will always be rumors that linger and people who can’t seem to move on without inquiring details on Jen’s personal life — still, let the music speak for itself and may Jennifer Knapp’s return to music be the continuation of a genuine expression of faith in life, and presence beyond this life.