Concert Review: Andrew Peterson & The Captains Courageous

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I got to see Andrew Peterson and the Captains Courageous (Andy Gullahorn & Ben Shive) this weekend when their adventuring brought them to Minnesota. They played in a good sized Lutheran Church in Lakeville with a row of peer-admirers sitting in the front. Taya and myself as well as Joel Hanson, Troy and Sara Groves, and a couple of my friends sat rapt with attention as the evening began.

Despite a somewhat tepid audience who for the most part seemed too self-conscious to really let loose and laugh (or applaud with gusto, or sing along, or…), and in spite of some sound issues for the first third of the evening (poor Andrew’s voice had more low end than any other instrument on stage), the Captains Courageous soldiered on and put on a great show, with the Andys on guitars and the masterful Ben Shive on piano and keyboard. (As the night went on, they dialed in Andrew’s voice, too, and resolved most of the sound issues.)

I wished I’d written a set list, but I wasn’t thinking of doing a review as much as I was just happy to get lost in some good music. But the evening began with four songs back to back as the fellas got a feel for the room and found their footing (lots of “f”s in that sentence). Andy P. introduced himself and a song by way of telling the story of growing up in Illinois in the skater culture of the 80’s and how he desperately wanted a pair of pink converse hightops. When he finally got them (and his brother a pair of purple ones, which they swapped a shoe so each of them had one pink and one purple – go Pete!), they ended up moving to a small town in North Florida. Andy P. and his new hightops now found themselves in redneck country where people hunted, only listened to country music, and beat up kids who wore pink (and purple) hightops. He went on to explain how he used to hate country music and would only listen to mock it, but slowly found himself staying longer on the dial than he expected as he discovered some of the great “country” like Lyle Lovett, Alison Krauss and Union Station, and Bill Monroe. He talked of how grateful he is that Bill and Chet Atkins weren’t preachers, because it forced them to preach with their music, and then he paid homage to their great preachments with a beautiful performance of “Let There Be Light”.

After this, Andy P. introduced Andy Gullahorn who introduced himself by saying that he grew up in Texas and that he was the kid who beat up the other kids at school who wore pink hightops. He had the whole audience in the palm of his hands as he told us how he was raised to work with cows and was on a career path to mastering the art of artificially inseminating said cows. “If you don’t know what that means, let me just say that it involves a rubber glove that comes up to here,” he said as he pointed to his shoulder. “So I decided I wanted to be a songwriter.”

He obliged my earlier backstage request and opened with “More Of A Man”. The audience never saw it coming as they laughed at the verses leading up to the emotional punch of the last chorus. I think he made some fans that night. He also played a new one about belief in spite of all we see that dares us to not believe. It was a great song that he tells me is on Jill Phillips’s (his wife’s) forthcoming record.

Andrew came back and ended the first set with a couple songs from Slugs & Bugs. After a brief break, the second set started strong and Andy P. totally owned it, playing tried and true classics as well as a good number of songs from his forthcoming record, Resurrection Letters, and seasoned with great stories throughout. The stories and the on stage banter are why I go to concerts like these and they were great – giving depth, meaning, and often a good laugh, if not a tear. I was struck, too, by how road ready the new songs are. They were among the strongest of the night.

At the end of the evening, they invited Troy Groves up to play percussion on Andrew’s new song “All Things New” and it was the musical highlight of the evening. The room was full of music.

Afterwards I talked to Andrew about the evening and how invasive much of it was – but in the best way possible. I don’t know about you, but I often go through times when the tenets of Christian faith begin to seem so unlikely. I’ve been in a bit of a spiritual funk recently, wondering exactly what I believe, why I believe it, and taking stock of everything. Creedal confession was a theme throughout the evening as we were asked numerous times to join in a refrain of “I believe….” Even Andy Gullahorn’s song was like this.

Lewis talks about fostering spiritual habits that turn into disciplines and how a child learns to become an adult by playing at being adult. I found that the more I was asked to sing “I believe…” throughout the evening, the more I did believe. It was invasive because at first he was obligating me by asking me to sing such significant words of great consequence – which I did even though my own conflicts were consciously registered. But by the end, through the sheer repetition of it, I found that I do indeed still believe, and was grateful to have been given an opportunity to say so. I told Andy that this was the gift he gave to me that night.

As if all this weren’t enough, we were treated to a great hang as we all went over to the Groves’ house, ate pizza, cheese, and ice cream and sat down to play a game that Ben Shive and Andy Gullahorn created the previous night before their show in Green Bay, WI. They call it “Banderdash” and it’s a variation of Balderdash where we all looked at a picture of an unknown band and then had to write a name for the band that we hoped would dupe the others. Like the rest of their creative output, the game was brilliant and we all had a blast going late into the evening. Let’s hope for a version of it to be available in the Rabbit Room store soon!


11 Comments

  1. Peter B

    Jason, you make me wish I’d been at that concert. Most days I could use a strong dose of “I believe”… and Banderdash sounds like a blast 🙂

  2. Darcyjo

    I sure hope you will be down in NC one of these days, I would have LOVED to have been at that concert1

    I’ve been wanting to hear Andy live ever since I got my copy of “Far Country.” This was the project that I listened to a lot while grieving the loss of my beloved Lonnie…..I’d be honored to meet the guy that helped me through my greatest pain and got me to look at Jesus.

    Thank you.

  3. Dieta

    I am so envious of your Captain’s night. That is hands-down my favorite musical experience right now. My son and I saw them recently at Lipscomb here in Nashville-and even though there were few people-we were SOOOOO very entertained and inspired. If I were a few years younger, I think I’d just follow them around the country. My kids and I are very blessed to be going to Memphis today to see Ms. Groves-so hopefully I will have one more inspirational night under my belt. Captain’s keep it up because it matters so much to a bunch of people!

  4. Michael H

    Last fall my wife convinced me to go to a concert by this guy I had never heard of by the name of Andrew Peterson. She had seen him the previous year steal the show from Michael Card. Little did I know how much of an impact it would have on me. There were two other guys who played that night… yep you guessed it, Andy Gullahorn and Ben Shive. Needless to say I am hooked, I believe I might be single handedly putting their kids through college (I own just about everything they have ever produced). I am now a big Jill Phillips fan as well and have pre-ordered Ben’s album.

  5. Jodi

    I was there. Know exactly what you mean by saying the concert was invasive, and it was just what I needed right now. I hope that the guys weren’t discouraged by the “tepidness” of the crowd. I can only speak for myself, but the lack of outward display of emotion doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not there inside. Actually, when AP talked about the stoic crowds in AK, I was laughing (on the inside, of course), because I wondered if he felt a little bit like he’d been transported back there.

    The highlights of the evening for me were:

    Andy Gullahorn’s new song. I cried through that one. So glad to hear it will probably make an album soon.

    AP singing “High Noon”. I literally had to grab my chair to keep from jumping up and shouting. Maybe I should have let go.

    “The Silence of God” Think I’ve worn a groove in my CD over that song.

    Hearing the story behind “All Shall Be Well.” My favorite thing about these concerts is getting the background info for some of the songs (love that AP did that here at RR–hope that will be a regular feature). Before this weekend, I thought the “frozen river” was a glacier calving icebergs into the ocean–I had no way of knowing how dramatic the ice-outs are because they happen more gradually around here. The prodigal son metaphor makes much more sense to me now.

    Had kinda hoped to hear some of Ben Shive’s music. Maybe another time. Please keep coming back up here, guys.

  6. Profile photo of Jason Gray

    Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    You know, sometimes I think, as a northerner myself, that a perceived tepidness or reticence or a general quietness – though challenging to play to as a performer – is often out of reverence. I’m usually a quiet concert-goer and it’s mostly because I’m more or less holding my breath, taking it all in, not wanting to miss a single nuance.

    I saw a secular artist named Martin Sexton in the twin-cities a few years back. He’s the most amazing performer I’ve ever seen (I’ve seen him 6 times!), able to bring the room to a hush so you could hear a pin drop, but equally raucous and like a caged beast.

    Anyway, this particular show was one of his best, and I for one was on the edge of my seat hanging on every note. It was a quiet moment between songs and he actually cussed us out for being too quiet, making references to us being afraid that the folk police might bust us or something… It was then I realized that he was reading our reticence as a lack of enthusiasm and he was having a hard night. I think the truth of it was that the whole room was rapt with wonder at his performance.

    I made it a point after that to give back to Martin a little that night with some “woot woots!” and fist pumping.

    I suspect the case that night in Lakeville was more likely a reverential reservedness for Andy and Co. And the fact that we’re in the heart of Lake Wobegon country.

  7. Paul H

    I was there last Saturday as well – my first AP concert – and despite my outward tepidness (I’m sure) had a wonderfully moving night. I sat there with tears streaming down my face as I heard the full story of the Queen of Iowa as I thought of my mom in a nursing home in the Twin Cities. And I loved the new songs. Singing “I believe” is indeed good for the heart and soul in a mysterious way.

    Thanks for your write up on the night Jason! It helped me relive a great evening. And now I just have to wait for “Resurrection Letters” this fall.

  8. JanO

    This is Jan from Cup O Joy way over here in Green Bay, WI. I just happen to look at the Rabbit Room and see Jason’s comments about Andrew’s show and wanted to chime in. The shows these fine men gave in Green Bay WI the day before MN were equally as enjoyable. It’s such a pleasure to have Andrew, Ben and Andy come to the Cup. We never tire of the fresh perspective and engaging melodies.
    Ben and Andy cut up all our magazines in the back room preparing their “Banderdash” game….born out of needing to make the road trips more interesting I’m sure.
    Thankyou Andrew, Ben and Andy… we can’t wait for you to come and visit us again.
    PS: I think the Cup audience was a bit more lively:-)
    janO
    There are a few pictures on the front of the Cup site http://www.cupojoy.com

  9. Jayson

    I was at this show in Lakeville also. Why on earth did it end at 9pm!?! My wife was happy to get back the babies but I could have stayed easily another couple of hours. I also wish that Troy would have sat in for more tunes (but I’m a percussionist).

    As a music pastor from not too far away, I have to say that tepidness is as Minnesotan as hot-dish. Personally, I was too busy basking in being played for and ministered to; rather than playing and ministering.

    Andrew, if you read this …please come back to Minnesota soon. We’ll prep people ahead of time if necessary 🙂

  10. Profile photo of Jason Gray

    Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    Okay, now I feel bad for the tepidness remark… it seems to be the thing that stood out the most from the review, and I didn’t really mean it as an insult to those in attendance as much as I meant it as a way of talking about how a quiet audience is sometimes challenging for an artist. My apologies to anyone in the audience that night who may have felt slighted by my comment. It was clear that everyone loved Andrew, and it was a great show. I think everyone just needed a little warming up, and once we were all warmed up, it was a very special evening. Again, I apologize for the careless way I may have depicted the audience – I was one of them after all, and I wasn’t hoopin and hollerin myself!

  11. Paul H

    Jason, no need to apologize about the “tepidness” remark. I think it definitely fits a typical Minnesota audience and I know it can be a challenge to be up in front and gauge whether folks are connected or not. The pastor at my local congregation jokes that he knows people are connecting with the sermon when they lean forward and scowl. So, yes, we Minnesotans (even adopted ones like me) can take a while to warm up even when we are greatly moved.

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