Last night, my sister (“A”) and I met my dad and his wife for a concert in downtown Modesto. A and I had been excited about this concert since my dad mentioned the prospect of procuring tickets.
We (A and myself) have been lifelong fans of Amy Grant. In our extreme fundamentalist church, Amy Grant was on the very short list of “approved” music choices. Her late 80s album, “Lead Me On” would become the cassette tape that we listened to most…through our high school years, into college and then in the CD format, into our adult years. To bring it all full circle, Modesto is our home town; the place where we listened to Amy the most.
This was a special concert because it was the 20 year reunion of the original “Lead Me On” tour. A and I were elated to get to re-live almost every single song on that album. At the onset of the show, Amy announced that she wouldn’t be performing anything produced after 1988. We knew we were in for a treat.
What I didn’t expect was the outpouring of emotion. Within seconds of Amy’s first song onstage (“Her Father’s Eyes), A was in tears. Big, audible tears. As for myself, I have this thing about crying in front of my dad (it’s a pride thing; I should probably get over it), but I too, was welling up.
There are several factors that I believe were at work here.
First off, Amy Grant was an icon to us. She was our beacon of light in a church setting that leaned toward being dark and rigid. Amy was fun, stylish, and edgy. She didn’t sing about dogma; her songs were warm and compassionate. We wanted to be like her. We wanted to be her.
Amy saw us through some tough times. A and I didn’t interact much during our high school years and our relationship continued to be strained into college. In 1990, we somehow managed to take a road trip, together, to Fresno with tickets in hand to see our first Amy Grant show. I can’t remember the details of why we went together and why we didn’t include any other friends. At any rate, I don’t remember speaking to her all the way to Fresno, nor do I remember any conversation on the ride home. But I do recall the feeling I had at the concert, while we sat together, singing along to our favorite Amy songs - word by word. I finally had the feeling, after 18 years, that I was connecting with my sister.
In 1991, I went off to college and had my first experience with a roommate. A moody, broody, and difficult roommate. She finally came out of her emotional cave after several days of being snappish and withdrawn to share her music collection with me. We discovered that we had the same Amy Grant tapes and that we shared an affinity for her music. Amy became a mainstay in our dorm room. That “Lead Me On” tape was played over and over through many late nights of studying.
When my parents divorced in 1993, my sister found great comfort in the song, “All Right.” I would later come to appreciate what she had found in these lyrics during my own divorce in 1995.
I took an “Amy break” in the late 90s in favor of Coldplay, Cake, Counting Crows, and U2. In fact, my “Lead Me On” CD got pushed way, way back on the shelf. I admit, I didn’t listen to it before the concert, in part, because of all the memories that Amy’s music always brings back.
But, at the concert, every word came back to me and lots of memories, too. Via cell phone, after the concert, I asked my sister, “What is it, with her music? Why all the powerful emotion? ” A had a great answer: “It’s like the soundtrack to our childhood.” And she’s so right. The good, the not-so-good, the great, absolutely everything is contained in that single album.
It was obvious that "Lead Me On, despite its age, really charges Amy up. Watching her perform, it was like she hadn’t aged a day (the long hair and the super toned body don’t hurt!). Interestingly, Amy’s had her good and not-so-good moments in the last 20 years as well. A highly publicized affair pretty much nixed her name straight off the “Christian” music circuit. She even announced during the show that her ex-husband was on the original tour and then made a joke about the prospect of having him tour again this time. She also eluded to her “screw ups” over the last 20 years.
I’m glad, so glad, that my sister and I have our Amy songs and our shared appreciation of how powerful her music is. It’s a special bond that I only share with A. And we both know how very unique that bond is.
We’re already counting the days until her next concert. We’ll probably need even more Klee-nex by then.
Looking out to the hills, to the setting sun
I feel a cold wind bound to come
Another change, another end I cannot see
But your faithfulness to me is making it all right
I fall down on my knees
Tell me that it's all right
You give me what I need
Years of knocking on heaven's door have taught me this if nothing more
That it's all right, what may come.