Derek Webb - 7/8/18 - Waukesha, WI House Show
A few weeks ago I had the chance to see Derek Webb on the last date of his current house show tour. Derek has been touring the US in support of his new album Fingers Crossed which was released September 29, 2017. The album is filled with the same brutally honest lyrics I've come to expect from Derek. However, I've found that this new album is much more introspective and laced with extremely heavy thought provoking material that finds him dealing with the loss of relationships and his loss of faith.
On Sunday, Derek sang from the depths of his soul and moved the room of 20 or so people with his genuine honesty. Tonight he played Fingers Crossed in its entirety, but broken up in to three sections with songs from his past catalog, taking requests from the room. He said he felt that it was necessary to do this because the album is so heavy, he didn't want people to start "jumping out of the windows". His vulnerable set brought him to us armed solely with his acoustic guitar; no sound system, no flashy lights and a truly quiet and captivated audience. This atmosphere provided an unmatched intimacy for us to feel the music that was flowing through his voice and guitar. Any imperfections that were heard in the music just made every part that much more endearing.
As I said the set was deliberately broken into sections to make the album more digestible. The first part of the set found us settling into the beautiful opening track "Stop Listening", "The Devil You Know", "The Spirit Bears The Curse" and "A Tempest in a Teacup". Then Webb stopped to talk about how house shows are weird, but they are his favorite environment for performing because of the instantaneous reaction he can receive from the room, the way he can observe peoples faces as peels back the layers of his emotions. He also discussed in length how he doesn't understand playlists and singles; a point I entirely agreed with. He brought forth the idea that albums should be played as albums because someone put those songs in a specific order to be listened to for a reason and to take them out of that order doesn't make that much sense.
He next played "Love is Not a Choice" a song that brings up the topic of destroying a relationship, and hating yourself for it, but also having to come to terms with the damage you've done. After this song he brought up that recently he's been finding songs have been forming in his mind specifically on holidays which is something that has never happened to him before.
The next two songs on Fingers Crossed are songs he wrote at Christmas and Easter respectively, but then he also made the joke that on his upcoming album Targets, due out in the Fall of 2018, he has a new song called "Valentines Day" so maybe this is becoming a trend for him. He also mentioned that Targets is the the inverse to Fingers Crossed, and that things are looking up and he's excited to get it released. "Chasing Empty Mangers" was up next and he briefly mentioned that the track on the album was not recorded in his studio at all, it was actually just an iPhone recording. He had every desire to make this a studio produced track, but could never get the feeling of the iPhone recording. I found this bit of inside information really interesting, and now listening back to that recording it makes complete sense, the vocals are raw and flawed which just intensifies the emotion of the song. "Easter Eggs" was up next, which is one of my favorite songs instrumentally on the new album, and I was interested to see how he was going to accomplish this song live due to a lot of electronic elements on the record, but he nailed this song and I really enjoyed this acoustic version of the song.
The next song on the album is "The Braver One(For Joanna)", a song that he wrote in memory of his friend Joanna Stanfield Montgomery who died after a long fight with an aggressive cancer in Summer 2015. The song was originally performed at her Celebration of Life, and he struggled with whether or not this song belonged on a record. After lots of encouragement from Joanna's husband, Mark, Derek decided to record and release this song. I believe releasing this song to the public serves as a legacy to Joanna, it is a beautiful song that explores losing someone important and brings to light both grief and understanding through that loss.
At this point, Derek opened it up for requests, the crowd with rife with anticipation and suggestions. First up was "Somewhere North" which was released 20 years ago by his band Caedmon's Call on the album 40 Acres. During this part of his set he mentioned that even though he's not in a place where he connects with these songs anymore, he wants to play anything he's written because he's there for us now matter which Derek we're requesting. I thought this was an interesting and refreshing way of approaching these requests, one might fear being met with resistance that the songs were written when he was really "young" or "a different person" or even not remembering how to play the requested song. It felt that no matter which song was requested he'd be able to pull the song out and play it for the room. After "Somewhere North" he played the classic "This Too Shall Be Made Right" off of his album The Ringing Bell a song that speaks about all the terrible things that were happening in the world when he wrote the song and how, in time, everything will be made right. The next song was "The Spirit vs. The Kick Drum" and Webb said exactly what I was feeling, "I'm not exactly sure how this is going to work, but here it goes". It was awesome to hear this song entirely devoid of the electronic programming and drums from the album Stockholm Syndrome and just hear it completely stripped down. To finish out the request section for the night he played "Love is Not Against The Law" off his album Mockingbird which is another classic song from his back catalog.
He steamrolled through the remaining album songs with "I Will", "Dodged a Bullet", "I Am Redeeming This Guitar", the title track "Fingers Crossed" and the beautifully written "Goodbye, For Now" which seems to find Derek saying goodbye to God, and his marriage, but has a slightly hopeful twist when he says "For Now". During the evening it really reminded me that artists are human beings; flawed, and filled with the same regrets and dreams as everyone else. It takes a lot of guts to open wounds in front of a room full of strangers, to fully put on display everything that is happening in your brain and in your life, but Derek Webb has done this over and over. It is okay to be open, to have feelings, to go through hard times and big changes, we are all connected in our human experience. Thank you for that reminder Derek Webb.
Listen to all the songs played at this show here: https://tinyurl.com/DerekWebbHouseShowPlaylist