You Against You: A Concert Review

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Around this time last year, Eric Peters played a concert in Murfreesboro, TN that I was planning on attending, but bad weather, a long work week, and sickness conspired against me and I wasn’t able to make it. So when Eric posted on his website a couple months back that he would be playing at the same church again this past Friday, I immediately added it to my calendar. I’d heard Eric play a good bit back when the Square Pegs were playing weekly in-the-round shows at the now defunct Radio Café here in Nashville, but hadn’t seen him play a full concert until now.

It was well worth the drive over from Nashville. A neighbor of mine, Paul Eckberg, joined Eric on percussion for a twelve song set that included “Save Something for Grace”, “You Can Be Yourself”, “Long Road (to Nowhere)”, and “Bus 152”.

I was hoping to hear him play “Tomorrow”, my favorite song from Scarce:

angel of tomorrow
say a prayer tonight
when we find ourselves alone
afraid of being known
and holding on for life

But since the recorded version is accompanied by Ben Shive on piano, Eric doesn’t usually play it with just a guitar.

Last month, I attended the Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, and one of my favorite speakers I discovered was Kathleen Norris. Going into her sessions, I didn’t know anything about her. Not until I got home did I notice that Eric had a quote on his Facebook page from her book The Cloister Walk that is the central thought of his song “Save Something for Grace”: “We try to be holy without being human first.” I’ve heard Eric sing it many times, but listening to him on Friday, the first verse jumped out at me like I was hearing it for the first time:

midnight at the stroke of noon
when the lights go down
and it’s you against you
quiet eyes in a blaze of shame
like a beast of burden you could never tame

we try to be holy without being human first

In the chorus, he tells us that its okay to be human, that grace is real.

save something for grace /she’s raising the sky
save something for faith / there’s hope still in her eyes
save something for grace

And in the bridge, my favorite part of the song, he sings,

we live as though mercy were frail
and forgiveness merely a tale
we condemn ourselves to a fault
when we fail, when we fall
we find we’re human after all

Eric sang one new song that he wrote for his son, Ellis, “I Will Go With You”, that I hope makes its way onto his next recording. And speaking of his next recording, he is planning on heading back to the studio sometime this summer with the illustrious Ben Shive producing, which gives me great hope for the record. Stay tuned to Eric’s website for updates on what is happening on that front. If you don’t have any of Eric’s CDs yet, you can purchase them on this very site (after saying penance). And be sure to check out Curt’s review of another EP concert recently (with Randall Goodgame), and his review of Scarce here at the Rabbit Room.


12 Comments

  1. Mike

    Thanks Andrew, You and all the Square Pegs. I don’t think I’m aware of another group of Christians who are doing what you do. We should all long for the community that is Square Pegs. And the best part is the music that I’ve been introduced to. My Square Peg catalog is slowly growing. I remember seeing Eric at a BTLOG concert for the first time. My wife and I were touched first by his humility and then by his music.

  2. Rebelling Against Indifference » You Against You - Eric Peters

    […] This past Friday, I drove over to Murfreesboro to hear a friend of mine, Eric Peters, play a concert. He has a song called Save Something For Grace that I love. In the first verse, he sings, “midnight / at the stroke of noon / when the lights go down / and it’s you against you / quiet eyes in a blaze of shame / like a beast of burden / you could never tame // we try to be holy without being human first.” I wrote a review of the concert yesterday for Andrew over at the Rabbit Room, and quoted some more lyrics from that song. Check it out here. […]

  3. Peter B

    Seriously, I hope Eric can make the BtLoG tour next year! It seems he rarely makes it to Dallas.

    Now I just need to set aside enough money to buy all these great albums as I discover them here…

  4. Jack

    Andrew,

    Does seeking to be “human first” occasion grace? Is this the way to loving that which is holy? Perhaps something is missing.

  5. Stephen @ Rebelling Against Indifference

    Jack, sorry if my commentary on that line in Eric’s song is confusing. We should absolutely strive to love what is holy. It’s not that we “seek to be human first,”, it is that we acknowledge that we are human. Jill Phillips, in the title song from her CD Nobody’s Got It All Together, sings, “What good is it to say please Savior come / If there is nothing you need rescue from / Life is something no one has a corner on.” Grace exists because we can’t make it on our own, because we need something more. So Eric’s song reminds me that I cannot become holy on my own and that if I try I’ll only “find I’m human after all.” Thus, “save something for grace.”

  6. Profile photo of Eric Peters

    Eric Peters

    @ericpeters

    Yes, thank you, Stephen, for the review and the clarification. My point – and, I suspect Mrs. Norris’ as well – is that we so often go through life trying to be perfect creatures, arranging all our ducks in a row, wearing the masks of pretending to have our proverbial acts together, and *trying* to get life right all the time, when in fact we do not get life right all the time; we screw up, we are knuckleheads (as AP calls us), we let people down and we are absolutely imperfect as humans, loved by a perfect God despite our weak and laughable attempts at “trying to be holy”. We/I, in reality, do not allow room for God’s rich and daily grace. This is not to say that holiness can’t and shouldn’t be our pursuit as believers, but that we acknowledge – MUST acknowledge – our utmost fallibility first and foremost as proud, clumsy, thickheaded and stubborn individuals before pursuing anything glorious and heavenward. Nor is this license to “sin”, as some might argue.

    Thanks for asking about this, Jack. I hope this helps to clarify my intent (at least a little) for the song.

    Stephen, I owe you a rendition of “Tomorrow”. I haven’t quite been able to figure out the bridge to that song on guitar, thus my chicken-like traits.

  7. Profile photo of Curt McLey

    Curt McLey

    @curtmcley

    Eric, I’ve been curious since I first heard Tomorrow–did you write the song on piano? I try not to use the word “masterpiece” often, but in my way of thinking, this song is truly a masterpiece. I loved it the first time I heard it and haven’t grown weary of hearing it. I’d love to hear more about how you came to write it and any details about writing it that you care to share.

    As many times as I’ve heard Eric live, I’ve only heard Tomorrow live once. It was in Norfolk, Nebraska. There was a large audience and Ben Shive was there and played the piano. What a great memory.

    For those that don’t have Scarce, consider this another strong recommendation to partake.

    Stephen, great review. Thanks for writing it. (I owe you a phone call … I’ll talk to you soon.)

  8. Profile photo of Eric Peters

    Eric Peters

    @ericpeters

    Curt:
    I – with head hanging sheepishly low – wrote “Tomorrow” on guitar in normal tuning. I’m not the most skilled or deft guitarist around (see, Andy Gullahorn as a better example), and when I first presented the song for possible inclusion on Scarce, I almost had to insist that producer Brent give it a shot, recommending highly that we bring in Ben Shive to lead the song with piano — since I wouldn’t know the first thing about playing piano if it walked up to me, bit me on the leg and invited me out for drinks, afterwards — since I had a sneaky suspicion Ben could pull it off no problem. He did. But I realized that recording a song on any of my albums that wasn’t guitar driven would mean that I’d have to improvise on guitar in a live setting. Hence, my conundrum with “Tomorrow”. I tried re-learning it in the normal tuning, but it just wasn’t even close to the same as the album version, my skills leaving too much lacking. I re-worked it in an open guitar tuning (C, capo 4) and managed to pull it off a few times live. Barely. I set the song on the backburner for several months and only very recently tried to play it at a show in Minneapolis (?) and completely butchered the bridge since I failed to recall the correct chords. [Stephen, this would explain my fear of playing it last Friday night in Murfreesboro.] Bridge-aphobia.

    I really like the song and just need to (re)hammer out the bridge. I’m no expert, but I, too, like this song. It feels open and honest, almost like it’s communicating something. All of this reminds me that I have another half-finished song called “Quiet Man” that feels like a brother to “Tomorrow”. Makes me want to complete it once and for all.

    Curt, I always love your questions. Sorry this was way more info than you probably wanted to know.

    P.S. Have you ever noticed the record player on this song?

  9. Profile photo of Curt McLey

    Curt McLey

    @curtmcley

    Eric wrote:

    ” … when I first presented the song for possible inclusion on Scarce, I almost had to insist that producer Brent give it a shot …”

    I remember that you said something similar about “Wiseblood.” Your supporters are glad that you insisted (persisted?).

    Eric wrote:

    “Bridge-aphobia”

    We fans have no idea of the horrid conditions you performing artists must endure.

    Eric wrote:

    P.S. Have you ever noticed the record player on this song?

    Maybe. Do you mean record player, as in turntable? Is it at the end of the song leading to You Come Over Me, as if the next song were being played from a turntable?

    By the way, I can’t wait to hear “Quiet Man!”

  10. Profile photo of Eric Peters

    Eric Peters

    @ericpeters

    Yes, turntable, as in, vinyl records. The music playing in the background at the end of “Tomorrow” is a random Christmas album Brent had laying around. We recorded a short 5-second portion of one of the tunes and looped it backwards. Made for a nice effect.

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