Matthew West is one of the most underrated artists in all of Christian music. His new album and successive tour further prove this point. The Story of Your Life (Sparrow) sold over 10,000 copies its first week out making West’s best street week ever. His new tour, with special guests Jonny Diaz and Josh Wilson, does far more than entertain and encourage. At a recent tour stop in Murfreesboro, Tenn., West’s set provided food for thought and moving stories of life’s greatest joys and pains.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Diaz and Wilson were both appropriate acoustic openers. Diaz was first up and warmed up the crowd with his sweet songs and candid humor. He joked about being an opener and shared a tongue-and-cheek song about the “opening slot.” In between songs from his debut album, including “Stand For You” and his smash hit “More Beautiful You,” he also performed a clever original song about his love for Chick-Fil-A. It sounds cheesy and like something that would happen at a Christian concert, but it was actually quite hilarious. He even managed to find a few things that rhymed with “my pleasure.”
Wilson‘s banter on stage was also light and humorous as he wove his way through radio favorites “Savior Please” and “Before The Morning” as well as an original instrumental version of “Amazing Grace” that received a standing ovation. He also played a new song called “I Refuse,” written after Nashville’s May Flood. After praying for those affected by the flood and praying that God would send healing and provision to these people, Wilson realized that God was telling him that he needed to be the hands and feet to these people to bring healing and provision to them.
The artists wasted no time with set changes. Immediately following Wilson’s set, West‘s piano player took his seat and played a dramatic, melodic intro while the lights went down. West’s dynamic band then cranked it up opening with “The Motions.” West, clad in a leather jacket, surprisingly looked like a rock star with his hair slicked back and the lights and smoke elevating him to a new status. Momentarily, the audience could forget they were in a church, because the production could have just as easily filled a large auditorium. West breezed through an energetic set of radio hits, including “More,” “Next Thing You Know,” “You Are Everything,” and “Only Grace,” telling a touching story before the later about singing “Only Grace” in a prison recently.
The first half ended with West sharing about his involvement with Operation Christmas Child (Samaritan’s Purse). There were no children to sponsor, no love offering. The plea was simple. Take a box at the end of the concert, fill it up and drop it off so that Operation Christmas Child can give it to a child in need this holiday season.
After a brief intermission, West came back with the best part of the show: He played his new album front to back. Using a rustic background that revealed an image of the wall of a cabin that also functioned as a video screen, West began to tell the story behind The Story of Your Life. West solicited stories from people around the world to write this album. Once thousands of stories were collected, West sequestered himself in a small, secluded cabin just outside of Franklin, Tenn., for a month. At the cabin, West read the stories and wrote songs about the people who were brave enough to share their story with him, and eventually the world. The result is a collection of songs that is both deeply personal and powerfully moving. And they translated powerfully to the stage, leaving the audience emotionally charged upon the evening’s commencement.
Intro songs like the title track and his new single, “My Own Little World,” provided a good preface to the rest of the album. Sometimes through video, and sometimes by simply reading the original letters, West told the stories of each of the songs on his new album. The songs cover everything from the joy of adoption (“One Less”) and beating cancer (“Survivor”), to the complications of divorce (“Two Houses”) and the pain of abuse (“Broken Girl”). West’s songs incited a roller coaster of feelings, and his sincere, emotional delivery made each song that much more meaningful. One of the most beautiful moments came in the form of “The Reason for the World.” With a cello playing off to the side, West sang the poignant lyrics that truly define Romans 8:28: “Maybe the reason for the pain/Is so we would pray for strength/And maybe the reason for the strength/Is so that we would not lose hope/And maybe the reason for our hope/Is so that we could face the world/And the reason for the world/Is to make us long for home.”
West ended the evening with the hopeful “The Healing Has Begun,” the same way he closes out his epic album.
West gave a surprisingly engaging performance. There was at least one song that every single person in that room could identify with. And that’s the point. West broke down walls and scraped right down to the raw level of humanity with these songs. This is one tour that you need to see if it’s in your area, and, more importantly, one album everyone needs to hear. It’s too important to miss.
Matthew has a video that tells the story behind every single song on his new album. Visit www.matthewwest.com to hear the stories and see if “The Story of Your Life Tour” is coming to your city.