Upper Room: Phil Keaggy

On August 25, 2018, a large crowd assembled at The Upper Room to see Phil Keaggy in concert. The doors were opened at just after 7 pm and the venue was filled to capacity within minutes. The proceedings began at 7:30 and there were plenty of surprises right out of the gate.

Host Ron Strand and Keaggy starred in a humorous video of a struggling guitarist (Keaggy) trying to impress a no-nonsense booking agent (Strand). Their acting and accents made for an amusing and memorable spoof of the music industry.

The next surprise was an opening act by comedian Robert G. Lee (who recently performed at The Upper Room on July 28th). Lee kept the audience in stitches with a variety of sketches, including the uproariously funny marital boxing match.

Strand introduced Tommy Coomes, longtime friend of the Keaggys (Phil’s wife, Bernadette, was also in attendance), who in turn introduced Keaggy. The legendary guitarist opened the concert with a sprightly rendition of “In the Light of Common Day” from his instrumental album “Beyond Nature” (1991).

Keaggy then segued into a set of songs from early in his career; including a cover of the Keith Green classic “Your Love Broke Through” and his 1973 hit “What a Day.”

Next, Keaggy created some improvisational alchemy with his five foot pedals, which allow him to record and loop various sounds, rhythms and textures. He employed his pedals to great effect during “Shades of Green,” where he used an egg shaker and pieces of metal and plastic to create both earthy and ethereal sounds on the guitar. At one point, Keaggy sang into the recorder inside his guitar and laid down four different tracks to create four-part harmony—a mind-blowing display of vocal dexterity and musical acumen.

At the midpoint of the concert, Keaggy invited Hadley Hockensmith (guitarist for the CCM superband, Koinonia) up to the stage to play bass guitar for a three song set, which included “Call the Doctor” from Keaggy’s newest release, “All At Once” (Coomes, who co-wrote the song, sang a harmony line over Keaggy’s shoulder during the chorus).

After a gorgeous acoustic guitar number, Keaggy sang “Salvation Army Band” from the 1995 release “True Believer.” Throughout the concert, and particularly during this song, Keaggy belted out incredibly high notes without cracking or thrashing his voice. Remarkable!

Keaggy closed out the concert with some tunes from his latest album, and seamlessly worked in a handful of passages from older albums too, like the middle section of “The Reunion” from “The Wind and the Wheat” and “Pilgrim’s Flight” from “The Master and the Musician.”

The concert was truly an unforgettable experience; those present were treated to an amazing and awe-inspiring performance by the ever-innovative six stringed virtuoso. Keaggy gave it his all, and judging from the reaction of the enthusiastic crowd, they all left feeling joy-Phil.

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