Last night, I saw the Perrys in Shelby, Ohio at Shelby’s First Lutheran Church. It was their first time at this venue, as well as their first time to do a concert in my immediate vicinity, at any rate since becoming one of the top groups in Southern Gospel.
The concert started with “Product of Love,” a slow ballad from the Perrys’ current project Look No Further that features bass Tracy Stuffle.
Even though most of the audience had probably never heard the second song, “I Know it Was the Blood,” before, the song got the audience going in a way that typically only classics do. The audience enthusiasm kept building with the third song, “I Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now.” Lead singer Joseph Habedank accidentally (I assume) sang the second verse first, and the first second. This would not have been worth mentioning except for his strong recovery; he did the second verse’s words with the musical embellishments that typically belong to the first verse, and vice versa. It was fascinating to watch his recovery–the work of a professional in action.
Although this audience was not particularly given to standing ovations–there were only three that night–the applause on this song was prolonged and enthusiastic, so much so that Tracy called for a fourth song, “Living in Canaan Now,” before introducing the group. When Stuffle said it was one of the most enthusiastic audiences he had seen in a while, it probably wasn’t just flattery.
Alto Libbi Stuffle was featured on “God Walks the Dark Hills,” again to prolonged applause. “Come and Get Me,” an old Mosie Lister song re-introduced on Look No Further, warranted and received an encore. Matthew Holt’s piano solo got the first standing ovation of the night. The group sang “Grip of Grace” and “Holy Shore” before the intermission.
During the intermission, Matthew played “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” Tracy and Matthew did a product pitch; however, there was no opportunity to go to the product table until afterwards.
They opened the second half of the concert with a new Rodney Griffin song, “Every Question Will Be Answered.” It’s a convention song in the same vein as Griffin’s earlier song “I Know I’m Going There.”
Tracy forgot to introduce “Jesus Opened Up the Way” by explaining the shape notes part, but his “singing in tongues” routine after the song went over all the better for it, since the audience knew what he was talking about.
Joseph Habedank’s rendition of “Who am I” was received with prolonged applause; the acapella encore was received with a standing ovation.
When Tracy called on him to sing “I Rest My Case at the Cross,” I thought his rendition deserved a standing ovation. I hate to be the only one to stand, so I didn’t, but the applause was as prolonged as during the previous standing ovations. The bridge of the song is particularly challenging for a lead singer, and while he sang a slightly lower arrangement that didn’t involve every high A-flat that previous lead singer Loren Harris did on the recorded version, he did hit the high A-flat without faltering or cracking.
Tracy did a recitation that led into the altar call. The Perrys closed the concert with “I Wish I Coulda Been There” and had the audience on its feet by (and during) the final encore.
The sanctuary was filled with an audience that was probably over 300 people. Since I was fortunate enough to sit near the front, I couldn’t spend lulls in the program counting heads, like I do at many concerts. (Of course, with this concert, there weren’t really any slow spots other than the brief intermission.)
Baritone singer Nick Trammell is growing into his role. He sang his parts with confidence, and even gave Habedank a break at one point by swapping parts. However, he wasn’t featured on any songs of his own.
Joseph Habedank has now fully come into his own as a lead singer. I did not realize until afterwards that Tracy picked three Habedank solos to close the concert (two of which brought the audience to its feet). A group does not feature a singer on three consecutive songs–let alone the three that close the concert–unless they are confident in that singer’s abilities. While there was a period of adjustment while Habedank was getting used to the lead part, he now sings it with confidence and command that makes this lineup as good as any that the Perrys have ever put on the stage.