Saturday Night Live & Worship Leading

I’m not sure how many of you caught the awkwardness a few weeks ago that was Arcade Fire on SNL. Now let me clarify; I really, really like Arcade Fire. In fact, I think their latest album might be the most lyrically holistic album since Achtung Baby, and a couple of the tracks off of it have even moved me to tears. Which isn’t too big of a deal…I routinely get moved to tears by that gorgeous and familiar snap of the guitar cable into the guitar’s input jack…but still; it’s not every day that an album will do that to you.

But live on SNL? Decent sound, but awkward, awkward, awkward. At least their frontman, Win Butler. (Awesome name, though.) Here’s the video:

And I started to think that having bands on SNL may actually be the one of the closest parallels to a worship band. Besides SNL having atrocious sound and the fact that unfortunately many churches are known for the same, in both situations, the band is asked to play to an audience that at best part is not there just to see them play, and at worst had no idea who they are and has no interest to see them, all in a venue not set up specifically for a concert. In both places, the majority of the folks in the seats are there for some other reason than to hear the music. On SNL, it’s to sit and relax and enjoy watching Scarlett Johansson host and Jay Pharaoh do Denzel Washington impressions. And then Arcade Fire gets up and asks an audience who may or may not have ever heard of them and who may or may not even remotely enjoy their music, to stand up and uninhibitedly engage with them. And in worship, we ask a congregation who may or may not have come just for the message and who may or may not just tolerate the music in order to be able to meet someone afterwards who will hug them or pray for them, to stand up and uninhibitedly engage with the Lord.

And that’s where it can start to feel real lonely, real fast. As evidenced painfully by the above song. Win is trying so hard to be a charismatic frontman, and win people over to the music; but he ends up just looking completely desperate, and I know that feeling well. I don’t usually grab the mic and jump onto the pews at church, but I sometimes will tend to say something awkward or not entirely theologically sound as I start to feel more and more naked as I look at blank stares coming back at me. Or I’ll push too hard trying to overcompensate for their lack of engagement. Or say something to try to force people into it. Which all comes off as desperate. And if there’s one thing that puts people off more than anything else, it’s desperation. It makes them feel awkward, and we hate feeling awkward.

(Can you blame people for wanting to see that over a band? Seriously, if you close your eyes, it’s Denzel Washington.)

The best part is how we usually try to push past the awkwardness. What do we do? We go buy Hillsong dvd’s and try to copy what they do. Forgetting completely that a worship concert dvd is (sorry) pretty much worthless when it comes to trying to help people in your congregation engage with God through music. Why is seemingly every person dancing and singing and lifting their hands on a Hillsong dvd? Well, one because it’s edited that way. They’re not going to show the guy who spent the whole night messing with his phone so he could get one pic to Twitter. But more importantly, because every person there came specifically to worship, and specifically to worship through music, and specifically to worship through music that Hillsong plays. What’s even more, to get into that concert, each one of those people paid money. So until your congregation pays money to get into church specifically to worship through music and not hear a message or connect relationally with people, and specifically wants to hear your songs, and until the media guy is sending you a private feed onto your lyric monitor on stage that is only showing the people that are really into it…the parallel is not that great between a Hillsong dvd and your worship service.

And then what is even better is when we recognize this, and rather than trying to then figure out what works to help people engage in our current non-concert setting, we instead try to change our current setting to a concert; completely forgetting that there is absolutely nothing wrong with a person who (*gasp*) may actually come to church to serve and set up tables so that people can drink coffee while they talk and learn to love each other, and may not really even care for our style of worship music. I know, it’s almost unthinkable. (Sarcasm, friends.) But it happens. A lot. And then we see people not engaging, and we get desperate. And say something awkward. And speed up a song. And say something harsh about people not raising their hands. And inadvertently completely ruin all chance of anyone connecting with God during the music part of the service.

I remember being at a conference one time where Chris Tomlin was leading worship, and after a quite rousing worship song, said, ‘Hey guys, I just want you to know that it’s not like this at my home church. I don’t usually lead worship for 4,000 worship leaders who paid to come to a conference. It’s so awesome to look out and see everyone singing and worshiping.’ And it was so cool to hear that. It’s okay if your church doesn’t look like a Hillsong dvd. And someone needs to tell Arcade Fire’s singer that it’s okay if SNL doesn’t look like one of his usual sold-out concerts with a bunch of hipsters busting the seams on their sown-on corduroy’s. But rather, getting to a place where you can balance worshiping God on your own, with loving people enough to want to take them with you on that journey. What often happens is we either get too into having our own little worship experience that we forget to engage with the congregation, or we try so hard to engage with the congregation, that we forget to believe what we’re singing. And there is something intensely powerful about a frontman who believes the very core out of what he is singing. Or a guitar player who believes the living daylights out of every note he plays. And then looks out at the congregation with a look that says, ‘This is where I’m going, and it’s going to be good. Jump on.’ Without desperately railing into them to follow him. They have to know that where you’re going is so good that if worse comes to worse, you’ll go without them; but you’d much rather take them with you.

And as an example of this, here ya go. This is one of my all-time favorite videos, and I’ve been saving it for a special occasion. And it just feels right in this post. You may not like U2, and you may hate this song. And that’s totally cool. (No, it’s really not, but you know that.) But watch the complete commitment on Bono’s part. To what he’s singing. To doing something stupid like running around the outer stage. Watch how, whether you agree with him or not, he believes what he is singing. And watch the reaction of the crowd. There is something in his demeanor that says, ‘Let’s go.’

And what do we do? We (myself included) write every song trying to copy everything about ‘Where the Streets Have No Name.’ (‘I am Free’, ‘Not to Us’, ‘Time Has Come’, every Angels and Airwaves song ever, etc.) And we miss that part of what makes this song continue to connect with people after 23 years of playing it live, is the complete and total commitment and belief that it is performed with. And in huge part I’m sure due to the fact that the song is written about the suffering Bono witnessed firsthand in Africa while serving over there for six months, and then realizing how much more content those people were than most who have more.

Another song here with complete commitment from believed lyrics. A song coming from a background of seeing so many girls settle for less than the perfect Godly guy they thought they would end up with. (Very interesting lyrics when looked into.) But I’ve rarely seen a singer with more commitment than Brandon Flowers.

Of course those are all edited concerts that people paid to see. So don’t be discouraged when your church doesn’t look like that. But they’re not singing about the Savior of the universe, either. And we are. Something to think about when believing what we sing.

Get behind what you sing. Get behind what you play. And read the lyrics so you know what you’re getting behind. And then…commit to it. Believe the life out of each note you sing, and each note you play.

Splendid.
Karl.

P.S. And for what it’s worth, Arcade Fire’s frontlady, Régine Chassagne, seems to do a much better job of reading an audience. She realizes that folks in the SNL seats are probably not going to rock it to her song, so she changes her tactic and just performs her song, her way. She goes somewhere, even if no one else will. It’s hard to do sometimes, but you got to give her props. Not for the swirly pom-pom’s, but for rocking without desperation.

P.S.S. It may very well be mentioned that in a post on worship leading, I only gave examples of non-worship leaders leading non-worship songs. This is unfortunately because in my search for examples of committed bands and frontmen who believe who they are singing, the non-worship bands seemed to beat the worship ones. Of course, that’s all opinion-based and perhaps I just searched the wrong keywords on youtube and so on and so forth. And I have been known to be wrong…at least every once in a while. ;) But there ya go.

76 thoughts on “Saturday Night Live & Worship Leading

  1. Karl, that was an awesome post, even without being able to view the Hulu videos. I’ve been several concerts where you can tell the singer is just singing, and doesn’t really believe the words they’re singing. I could tell on Wednesday, that Bono believed every lyric he sang. He put his heart and soul into everything he did.

    As a guitarist, I sometimes fall into the same trap as the main worship leader. I’ll lookout and see people not worshiping, and try and do something special to make them engage.

  2. Karl, First off, awesome post, i totally agree with what you’re saying, its a constant challenge to not try to push people to worship but to just let them be where they’re at, whether worshipping or not.
    Second, the people don’t pay to go to the Hillsong album recordings, thats people just going to church on a Sunday night and worshipping genuinely.

    • Thanks, bro. :)

      And how about the Hillsong dvd recordings? I’ve never been, but I do have friends who have paid money to get in to those concerts…as far as I know.

        • You can autotune anything dude :) No i’m pretty sure they just put up an announcement in church that they are doing a dvd recording and members get to go to them.

          • haha Even if it is autotuned, the point would be that it is still produced; even telling a crowd that you’re recording them for a cd or dvd means that they, by human nature, are no longer ‘just worshiping.’ And then of course, just because people know it’s a dvd recording, doesn’t mean they won’t be texting their friends that they are at a dvd recording, and of course the producer will edit out that shot. lol

            But with the paid concert ticket thing, I was sure I’d seen some Hillsong dvd’s where they are playing at different places around different countries. Maybe it was just youtube footage. Either way, they do still charge for their non-home church concerts. So when you go to their concerts, as awesome as they are, remember people are committed enough to pay for their ticket; which will be a little different from your Sunday morning church. hehe :)

          • Unfortunately, with live Hillsong recordings/DVD’s, everything that was recorded on the night is thrown out, except the drums, then it’s rerecorded in a studio. This includes the crowd singing.

          • This is true. The one that you are talking about Karl is their I Heart tour. It actually isn’t a live dvd though it’s a dvd of their tour to their music with clips of them playing that particular song at different locations. Not worship at their church.

            I completely agree about the produced thing. The funny thing is that I’ve been to places where they try to recreate the production of Hillsongs dvd’s and it always comes off as contrived :)

            Nothing beats the real deal. We played a 5 song set for our buddies 100 plus kid high school group once… the feeling in the room was PALPABLE! It was amazing! It was awesome because at one point I forgot where I was, I was so engrossed in my part and the music we were playing as a whole I had to look up and remember I was leading :) It was awesome.

          • I’m not sure of the sources of everyone’s information, but back in 2002, I was in Sydney on business. I worshiped with the Hillsong congregation at their ‘downtown’ location (their original location). I talked at length with one of their band members, who invited me to join their worship team for that morning in prayer backstage (amazing time of conversation with the Lord).

            After the service, this same band member invited me to visit the campus out in the hills to experience one of their rehearsals for their annual worship event (the one from which they produced their DVDs and CDs) and to talk with folks about different aspects of their worship ministry. Back at this time, they would rent out the Sydney entertainment complex because it was the only venue large enough in which they could bring all of their people together at one time in one place for worship (they’ve since outgrown that venue). I was there on Wednesday evening of their final week of rehearsals.

            I got there early… Since they don’t cancel their Sunday AM services for what was in 2002 an annual event, the team scheduled to lead worship was already on stage running through the set list for Sunday. During the 1.5 hours this team was rehearsing, I had Ian Fisher, one of their staff bass guitar players sitting on my left; David Moyse, one of their lead guitar players sitting on my right (David used to play for ‘Air Supply’); Pete Kelley, the percussionist who invited me in front of me; and one of Hillsong’s FOH engineers sitting back behind me.

            Let me first say, these are the most ‘down to earth’ non-pretentious folks I’ve ever met. Hearing our conversation, you would have concluded that I had known these folks all of my life.

            With respect to the 2002 project called ‘Blessed’, here are some facts I would like to make known:

            * Those really tight congregation vocals you hear? That’s usually coming from a 400 to 500 member choir made up of all the college age students who are there for Hillsong’s co-op program with several Bible colleges and seminarys around the globe. This is something you can also do on a small scale with just 12 to 30 voices (which Hillsong routinely does each week; they were still doing it when I was there again in 2005).

            * No, they don’t throw out everything which was recorded that night… They do some post-production work, but it’s mostly clean-up for clarity. Considering that many of their musicians, who in addition to being active members of the Hillsong church, are also professional musicians, yes, they play incredibly tight. Add several weeks of rehearsals on top of that and they’re going to be ‘dead on’ accurate for a live event.

            There’s a ton of additional information I could share that I gathered from my conversations that night. Here are two quick items that stood out from that night that I’ve never forgotten… One was Ian Fisher remarking, “The music we’ve been writing, we write first and foremost for our congregation, representative of where our community of believers is on their spiritual journey; if we never did another CD or DVD, it wouldn’t matter to us. It’s not why we do what we do…”

            The second ‘stand out’ item occurred after an opportunity to chat briefly with Darlene and Marty Sampson during a break in the rehearsal session before leaving to catch a cab back to the city. As I’m waiting in the lobby for my cab, a young lady burst through the door (Darlene’s administrative assistant) and said, “Good, you’re still here — Darlene asked me to run up to her office to pull some resources for you to share with your worship team back in the States,” whereupon she proceeded to hand me several CD’s, some cassette tapes of some of Darlene’s seminars on different aspects of worship, and a copy of Darlene’s new book ‘Extravagant Worship’ (which I would encourage anyone to read).

            With respect to the subject, “Is worship at Hillsong like their DVDs?” I can tell you from having worshipped with them on several different occasions in 2002 and again in 2005, the answer is “Yes.” So… what? Excellence in worship isn’t about perfection — it’s about offering to God the best you can with the resources available.

            With respect to the subject of Hillsong United charging for a worship event… I personally don’t see anything wrong with that, especially given the costs involved in doing events of this nature.

            Having just been to a Hillsong United event in Philadelphia earlier this year, it was a 2.5 hour worship experience — not a concert (and I’ve been to enough of both to know the difference). Whether it was the event in Philly or the worship services I experienced in Sydney, the Hillsong folks are very gifted at creating an environment where you don’t feel like you’re watching someone perform on stage. Instead, you feel like you’re part of a 10,000 voice choir with a live band that’s directing praise to God.

            Sorry… I’m not a ‘die-hard’ Hillsong fan, who thinks everything Hillsong does is out of this world, trying to defend them against unjust criticism. I simply want to set the record ‘straight’ having been there and having talked for more than a few hours to the folks leading different aspects of their worship ministry.

            Thanks! :)

  3. Totally, bro. I agree with you fully on both counts! When I saw Bono sing last year, I was blown away by how fully he believes every word…even if the audience doesn’t.

    And I totally do that as a guitarist, too…I get too desperate and try to do something different to force people into it. And for some reason, desperation never works. Sometimes, you can play the same thing…and if it comes from listening to the song and trying to reach the congregation and worship the Lord, it works; but if it comes from fear and desperation, it totally doesn’t work! haha Crazy phenomenon.

    • I think this is one of those instances where where the cliche “less is more” is quite correct.

      Also, I think this is one of your best posts yet, Karl. Thanks. And keep up the good, reflective work.

      • +1 Definitely the best post in a LONG while :) Not that the other ones are bad but it’s been a while since you’ve had a reflective post.

  4. Great post, Karl.
    Guess we all have similar challenges, in engaging our congregations and pointing their attention to God in worship.

  5. This is what has been in my mind for the last year or so and the only phrase that convince me and keep pushing me to lead without fear and boldness is the fact that we [the music team] are there every service simply to provide a media, an opportunity for people to be able to worship.

    Not to put on a show, not to make people sing, not to make people dance, not to make people jog around the sanctuary – but simply to provide a place, media, opportunity for people to be able to worship.

    It’s hard these days – with people come want to see a concert, people come want to get their pain relieved, people come want to get their problem solved – but only a few who really wanted to come to worship the KING.

    Well said and as always well post..!

  6. This is right on the money. The options seem to be 1) try to cater to exactly what your congregation wants to hear — impossible because they don’t all like the same thing 2) just quit because it’s an impossible task or 3) Karl’s suggestion: commit to and believe in what you’re doing and let God handle the rest.

    I heard this quote once “the worship team leads the congregation, but they shouldn’t have to lead them very far.” Which I suppose means if your people aren’t worshipping it may be they’re not living correctly Monday-Saturday. That’s a dangerous tack though because it could lead to thinking ” we’re doing what needs to be done and if they can’t join us it’s their problem.”

  7. This is something that I teach players just starting out…

    “Believe the life out of each note you sing, and each note you play.”

    The worship… what do we know? We try and over think… I try to remember that God is in control in spite of me.

    I say play wrong notes like you believe them. Make me believe them.

  8. It is interesting to hear this from a worship view point (I know, this is guitar for worship, it takes me a while to catch on). I have always looked at the audience connection as a constant battle between the showman and the artist. Too much showman and you end up overcompensating and looking awkward as you try to “make” your audience love what you are doing. Too much artist and you lose the audience in your self-absorbed attempts to be “pure” (and I don’t mean pure in a spiritual, love of Christ way. I mean pure in the anti-commercial sell out success alt rock/indie scene). It seems to me that you need to blend the two. The good examples you provided are people who seem to do that. Bono and Brandon Flowers are amazing artists and amazing showman at the same time. They put on a show in a way that invites us into their art.
    But these are all the theories of an observer. I am not a performer/showman and I do not consider myself an artist. I am at worst a critic and hopefully at best a fan (but always a wanna be).
    Thanks for the post!

  9. Awesome post. Very timely for our worship team, and I’m definitely sharing this. Thanks for sharing with us what God shares with you.

  10. you’re right, there are far more examples of secular artists being more committed to what they are singing … on youtube, anyway.

    try attending a church with predominantly black or even latin congregation, you’ll see people who sings/play/dance like they really mean it ;)

  11. “The worship… what do we know? We try and over think… I try to remember that God is in control in spite of me. ”

    Awesome. Over think? Yeah that’s tatooed all over me.
    Did I pick the right songs? How are the lyrics? Too much electric guitar? Maybe I should only play hymns with an acoustic? But then I’d grumble, so I must be a sinner, or spiritually immature. What’s wrong with these people?

    I’ve always worried that my Senior Pastor would think my choices and/or styles were too aggressive for our congregation, but he just keeps saying “play what you enjoy playing” and “use the electric more.” What an encourager that guy is.

  12. Karl,

    What do we know? Nothing!

    Every time I am involved in leading worship, it gets proven every time; it’s all His when it goes awesome, and all ours when it sucks! All we need to do is be honest, willing and sincere jars of clay. In short, an awesome and timely post, my friend!

    Diamond.

    p.s. it’s actually p.p.s, not p.s.s. – it actually stands for Post Script, so p.p.s is therefore Post Post Script; but I’ll forgvie you this once in light of your excellent use of that version of Streets!

  13. This was a great post, Karl! You really put some time into this one!

    As I was reading what you had to say, it really reminded me of a lot of “worship” leaders. Instead of worrying about the congregation, we should be only focused on God.

    I always try to just focus on God and the rest will come. If I am focused on God, He will direct what He wants me and other to do… playing for an audience of one is what it is all about! :)

  14. I find the most interesting thing about leading worship is that when I’ve had ample time to practice… or in the case of the youth worship work on a 20 song songlist for a year… once you get to that level of knowing your part and orchestration, the worship is EASY! You know every note you are going to play but you’re going to play them to the best of your ability. My church worship team practices for an hour for each sunday… AN HOUR! I hate it… I always feel underprepared and it breaks my focus instantly.

  15. hahahaha, so true about “every Angels and Airwaves song ever”

    That was an especially cool post. I’m glad someone finally brought forth the fact that corporate worship (meaning, I guess, worship music in a church setting) as portrayed by your favorite and mine Hillsong United, is produced. To be clear, I’m not challenging their authenticity as believers or worship leaders, but I am saying that there have media directors, and producers, and editors who cut the DVDs and videos to appear a certain way. Not that it’s a bad thing–It’s expected…but just as you said, it can be discouraging when you look out into the audience and do not see the same undignified worship as you do in the DVDs. I feel that…I’ve been doing a little leading myself, and I most definitely understand the sentiment.

    Scott

    p.s. I’m really digging the tremolessence

  16. Don–it’s actually so nice to hear you and others comment that; means I’m not the only one up there sometimes feeling like I could break into When the Levy Breaks and people are so disengaged they wouldn’t even notice. haha

    Bret–haha Thanks, bro!

    CT78–beautiful comment. I love what you said about us just providing the media so that people can worship. We do want to try to provide a way for them to come along with us, but to step out and almost try to force them to? That never works. haha We may get to feel better about ourselves because more hands went up, but if they feel forced, is it really worship? Again, great comment. :)

    Nick–I’m not exactly sure I understand you’re meaning. Sorry about that. So before I jump in and ascribe meaning to what you said, would you be so kind as to clarify? Thanks!

    Randy–ooh, great quote!! I agree though, if we’re not careful, it can lead to being the worship leader who couldn’t care less if people worship with them. It’s a tricky balance for sure.

    Sal–ooh, fantastic comment. Yes, we should be believing what we play so much, that people even believe the wrong notes! haha Fantastic!

    And I think you’re right…and it’s something that I learn more and more as I get older…we do have a tendency to overthink worship music. lol

    Gtr1ab–actually, your comment was absolutely right on the money. A performer has to have a balance between the attitude of ‘Get into this! Get into this!’ and the attitude of ‘This is cool whether you’re into it or not.’ It’s a very tricky balance, and you described it brilliantly; probably even more aptly than I did. Awesome comment!!

    Dan–thanks, brother. :)

    Rhoy–haha That’s a good point!! I will say though, I just had the opportunity to help out at a Latin church for a few months, and although they definitely believed everything they were saying…emotionalism also took over a little bit, and there was no filter for anything being said. So they’d sing some things that were not exactly Bible-based, and yet still everyone raised their hands and danced around and such. Which I feel like is the issue then we can fall into if we’re not careful. haha God always makes it so we have to watch ourselves and not get lazy, doesn’t He! hehe

    For what it’s worth, a few years ago I did get to visit an African-American church, and wow! They did a great job balancing emotionalism with grounded theology. The whole ‘spirit and truth’ thing. :)

    Randy–wow, what a blessing to have a sernior pastor like that! Ya, we can definitely overthink things. lol I’m terrible at that. I think there’s a ablance that I’ve yet to achieve of working really hard to get things right, and then knowing at what point to say, ‘Okay God, I’ve done my best to be faithful with what You’ve given me; I’m handing the rest to You.’

    Daraithe–for sure. We (I, haha) definitely need to be more moldable to what He wants. :)

    And by jove, you’re right on my gramatical error. I tend to shy away from anything that puts two p’s together. Worried about the inner little boy in me. hehe

    Brandon–very true, we do tend to focus too much on the congregation, and not enough on God. However, I do believe there is a balance. If we’re only up there to worship God ourselves, and not to take anyone with us, then why are we up there? Somehow we have to find the balance between making sure we are worshiping God in our own hearts, and also providing the vehicle through music, interaction, and leadership (servantship) to help bring the congregation along with us in our worship of God. Just my humble thoughts on the matter. :)

    Marcello–thanks! :)

    Ben G–hmmm, good point, and way to look at it from another angle. Ya, lack of practice or preparation can totally inhibit our ability to worship, and to lead worship committedly. When we don’t prepare, it’d be like Bono reading the lyrics to Streets off a music stand. Not nearly as powerful. haha Great point, bro!

    Scott–awesome comment. Thanks for getting it. :) It’s absolutely in no way saying that editing is a bad thing. Who wants to buy a Hillsong dvd to worship to at home, and be distracted by shots of people texting? But the point is to realize it’s edited when you’re trying to use it as an example for how you yourself lead worship. Thank you, my friend. And stoked you’re digging the Tremolessence!

  17. Ben G “I find the most interesting thing about leading worship is that when I’ve had ample time to practice… or in the case of the youth worship work on a 20 song songlist for a year… once you get to that level of knowing your part and orchestration, the worship is EASY! You know every note you are going to play but you’re going to play them to the best of your ability.” How do you handle doing the same songs so much? I’ve always thought it best for worship musicians to have other “gigs” going on so they can explore new songs every time, and try any musical style ( or volume ) that suits their fancy. With that, one might be able to handle the repetition that so often seems to be best in the church environment.

    I bring in about one new song per month, just to keep my attitude in tact, since I haven’t been able to find a suitable outside opportunity.

    • Easily… the youth worship team WAS my other worship gig :) We were exploring the music that we wanted to play, and play well! Our sunday worship is at least two decades behind the times technologically and musically. We devoted almost all of our time to reworking old hymns to make them modern with our touch as well as playing all of our new favorites from Jesus Culture and Hillsong United and Phil Wickham. It was a great run while it lasted.

  18. Zach–great point! Less is definitely more in that context. And thanks for the kind words. :)

    Randy–it does get difficult doing the same songs so often. I think that’s where the servantship comes in; that it’s about helping the congregation worship, even if we’re bored. But as you pointed out, if we’re too bored, it’s very difficult to be putting our hearts into the songs! So there’s definitely a balance. I think one new song a month sounds like a very reasonable balance. :)

  19. Yes, and of course if our folks know the song and worship, it definitely overshadows any “boredom” factor. I went crazy this week. Sunday’s set list: Joy to the World, Angels we have heard on high, We Three Kings, O come O come Emmanuel, O Holy Night, What Child is This and a special: “There is a way” by NewWorldSon except we changed everything to He is the Way

    • two weeks ago, during a bridge section where only the drums play with some repeated vocal lines, not a lot of people were singing so our worship leader said, “I can’t hear you!” … i thought it was hilarious, and awkward at the same time ;)

  20. Yeah, I just love the “Slane” DVD. Gives me goosebumps when the lights come up during “Streets” and all you can see is a sea people.

    Oh hell… who am I kidding, it’s the song that give me goosebumps.

  21. Of course U2 owns it live and they get the crowd engaged. But I remember one time when I saw them on the Vertigo tour, Bono was trying to get the crowd to start chanting “Africa,” and the response was pretty dead. It was actually rather awkward. However, it was the first night of the tour. Of course not everything will be perfect.

    By the way, they played a second night in a row in San Diego, and a few friends went to the show. They somehow got a recording of it, so I got to hear it. They played Forty, and for some reason, Bono started singing the song in the completely wrong key. It was really strange. They had to stop the song and everybody was confused. But then they started over again and played right.

    See, even U2 screws up.

    Great show and all. But I can’t stand watching bands in an arena. Arena sound sucks. And being way high up in the nosebleeds leaves you a bit disconnected.

  22. Randy–ya!! Goin’ Christmas!! I’m introducing Christmas songs slowly this year. The new church I’m at has never done Christmas songs. So I’m introducing them slowly, and just the ones with hymn-like theology in their lyrics. :) But next year, Christmas starts in July! hehe Just kidding. But I do love Christmas, and stoked that you’re already there!

    Ramsay–that’s awesome! Another one of my favorites is, ‘Come on, church!’ Wait, what? hehe

    Scott–the song, the sea of fans, Bono transitioning songs operatically…it’s all gold. :D

    David–haha Ya, there’s a few U2 awkward moments as well! Especially when Bono sometimes gets too ambitious on asking people to chant things that aren’t actually in the song. hehe I’ve heard recordings where he’s asked people to sing out some random Irish name, and everyone’s like, Huh? hehe

    As for the false start on 40, I think I heard a recording of that! Some bootleg somewhere. There’s a couple clips on youtube too, where Edge’s guitar doesn’t work, and where he slides around to find the notes in a solo. hehe Soooooo makes me feel better about myself. :)

    Nater2–ya, I’m definitely liking what I’ve heard from them. I don’t think I’ve given them enough of a block of time to change my life yet, but maybe soon. hehe

    Matt–what’s up, brother?! Ah, I actually feel so much better knowing that you didn’t think that performance was that great either. It was such a bummer, because I’d spent about a month straight listening to the album, and was so incredibly stoked to watch them on SNL. And it was such a letdown. Actually, I thought she did a much better job with her song than he did. And they still sounded fairly tight musically. I think it’s just that SNL is like the most awkward place to play ever. Keane’s been awkward there, Doves…just a bad place to play I guess.

    And awesome video!! Ya, he looks way more comfortable in that video. And even with the SNL fiasco, I still listen to Suburbs quite constantly. :)

    • A church that’s never done Christmas songs? That’s just so foreign to my experience I can’t believe it! Shouldn’t be too hard to introduce them though – if they’ve walked through the doors of a shopping mall this time of year then they should have some familiarity with the songs..

      Great post though. Our church is getting better, but there’s still plenty of times where as a worship team we are really getting into it and feeling the worship, only to look up and see a sea of empty faces, closed mouths, and still bodies in front of us. But you can’t force it – all we can do is bring our best, and trust God to work in the crowd.. and He has been, so it’s cool.

      Sadly those Hulu videos aren’t viewable outside the USA, but it doesn’t matter, as the Streets video is all I need. It got me so excited watching that – in exactly 2 weeks time I’ll be standing in a stadium with 25 of my friends from church finally experiencing the reality of U2 live… Christmas is coming a week early for me this year! :-))

  23. I really like how some of the recent Christian artists have been recording Christmas songs. (ie. Phil Wickham’s new Christmas CD). I think it’s really cool how Christmas songs can have a more contemporary sound!

  24. Mike Oliver–thanks for the info, bro. Sounds like a good day! And ya, nothing wrong with Hillsong; the whole point is just simply production. Same as if any of our churches were to produce a cd, and then try to replicate our own cd on a live Sunday morning set.

    Baggas–I know, it’s kind of weird on the Christmas songs!

    And glad to know I’m not the only one who’s looked into the sea of blank faces. hehe

    Streets is the best!! And hulu is only available in the US? Oh man, sorry about that. I had no idea. I only used hulu because SNL doesn’t allow their stuff on youtube.

    Brandon–ya, there’s some good ones out there! Years ago, BEC released a couple ‘Happy Christmas’ albums. There’s some absolutely atrocious stuff on there, but if you sift through it, there’s some gems, too. :)

    Ben–haha Thanks, bro.

  25. Dang flab it!

    I blink and there you go posting up what is one of the MOST FREAKING AWESOME POSTS ON WORSHIP PERFORMANCE THAT I’VE EVER READ.

    I thought “streets have no name” was about religious-centric neighborhoods in England – at least that’s what I thought I read somewhere.

    Now I have to forward this article to a few worship leaders. They try hard and I think this will give them a good perspective.

  26. I’m just thinking right now, God first, everything else comes after. Only in the past few days has this really been put into perspective for me. I’d feel like I was in a constant prayer battle against God to try to get him to hear me for years. I wasn’t putting him first though. Conclusion, he teaches us the hard way but I believe a similar principle applies to leading worship. Through God we know our congregation, through God we know the flow of the set, through God we know how his spirit will lead people that morning/evening and we learn how God will use us. Sometimes this means things won’t go to plan and sometimes it even means that major cutbacks to our plans are needed. It’s all just a big journey in worship to God :) Put him first, know you are addressing the creator of the universe when you speak, whatever you plan whether it seems good or bad for a worship set God will use if you’ve dedicated the time to him in preparation and prayer. And I honestly don’t think it’s about big concerts/worship events. It’s completely irrelevant. They’re doing what they believe God has asked them to do. We should do the same right? This is just what’s been going around my head recently anyway. If our heart is in the right place it is where God’s is, if God’s heart is where our own is how can anything be done incorrectly?

    Here’s worship song where the band & congregation (appear to) mean it http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KW7CD29V4tU :)

  27. Awesome post! I agree that the SNL performance was awkward – maybe it wasn’t their best live performance of that song, either? AF and The National have put out the best albums this year.
    AF made some amazing music videos as well.
    I was watching U2 360 dvd yesterday and, I might be mistaken, but was that a little bit of AutoTune on Bono during MLK? :(

    @Mike Oliver – thanks for posting the inside scoop on Hillsong!

  28. Chris–thanks, bro. :) And I think Streets may be about several different things…some free association from Bono. :)

    James–thanks for posting, and opening up about the journey God has you on; probably not much different from the one He has the rest of us on. :) And I agree, Him first. Cheers!

    Dan–ya, something about SNL. Nobody sounds or looks good playing there! haha And it sounds seriously like it’s a direct board mix with no house mic’s or even any outboard effects.

    And I will soon know on the MLK thing! I still have the original unedited youtube livecast, so I’ll match it up with the dvd and see. I know for sure they edited out Edge’s flatted 7th chord in Breathe (although I though it sounded rock ‘n roll, even if it was a mistake! haha), and they fixed Adam being on the wrong string for a couple beats in the second verse of Magnificent. :) Ah, production!

  29. Oh- don’t know if you use any software for your site or not, but I just downloaded a free software called “Duda Mobile” for my site… it automatically changed your site to fit any mobile devices!

    It is absolutely amazing…and free! Just wanted to let you know because it has brought increased traffic to my blog and it just looks great!

  30. Did you say something? I was totally distracted by the awful shirt Win had on in the video…:)

    Seriously though…AWESOME POST!!!! I’m gonna read it again, then read the comments, then read it again, then go repent, then read it again…then perhaps I’ll figure out how to put it into practice. Thanks for you insight into worship as well as sweet tone.

    btw, my M13 died, so now I’m anti- Line6. I just ordered a NYC pedal board to prove it ;)

  31. Dan–stupid technology. Let it be flat and rock ‘n roll!! ;) hehe

    Brandon–thanks.

    Steven Bruce–lol Killer comment on the shirt. hehe And thanks for the kind words. :)

    And most importantly, welcome back to the world of pedals!! :D ;)

    MikeZA–thanks, brother. :)

  32. Something about SNL — I’ve never been to a taping, but I’ve been in that studio, and it’s INCREDIBLY small. You have no idea how small that room is.

  33. Craig–now PBS always seems to ‘get’ sound. Great programs there. And I do very much enjoy Mr. Beck’s sense of melody. :)

    Hippie Killer–wow, crazy. Is it the same studio for the sketch sound as the band sound?

    • Yes. The studio is sort of like 3 tiny separate stages in a row. The stage where the SNL band sits and where the host comes out is in the middle. The next time you watch, notice the black platform the host stands on (and where everyone stands at the end of the show). That platform is like a drawer they pull out from underneath the band’s stage. When they’re doing sketches they push it back and set up in front. There’s another stage off to the right where they do sketches. The stage where the musical guest plays is over to the far left. Supposedly it’s a very good sounding stage because it’s built into a different foundation than the rest of the building … or something like that. It looks bigger on TV, but the audience is only a few feet away from the band.

      The reason why the studio is so small is because all of the studios in Rockefeller Center were originally built for radio. Fun fact.

      • Very interesting! Thanks for the info. I’d love to go to a taping someday. Ah, forget it…I’d love to play on that stage someday! I gotta get about 99.9% more famous, though. hehe

  34. I think the only reason it feels awkward to me, is the fact that the message of their music is so against the vibe of New York City and SNL. It’s rebellious in the sense that the members of Arcade Fire aren’t glamorous or grandiose in any way.

    “We Used to Wait,” is all about how technology has robbed us of the romanticism we used to appreciate in our culture. We “Used to write letters, and sign our names,” but the internet has made it easier to forget about simpler times. I don’t know about you, but I feel way more appreciated when I receive an actual letter in the mail, rather than an e-mail.

    Whether or not the audience was aware of this rebelliousness, the band was and because of that, maybe it made them feel empowered. So empowered in fact, it caused the singer to approach the camera and audience and sing with complete gusto and bravado.

  35. Hey Justin, very interesting take on the performance! Very cool.

    I totally agree on the subversiveness in the lyrics. However, I found the approaching of the camera and audience a little bit awkward and desperate rather than commanding. Not necessarily the actual act of doing it; just the way he did it. I’ve seen performers do similar things before which literally commanded your attention. And this one seemed a little bit preconceived; which bummed me out because it almost made the cool lyrics seem packaged for me.

    However, that’s only the way it struck me as a I watched. If it struck you that he was in total control and just owned it, then awesome! I really like Arcade Fire and was hoping that that was how it was going to strike me! haha But, unfortunately, it did not.

    Thanks for bringing in that other perspective, bro. :) I’ll watch again and see if I see what you see. Cheers!

  36. Karl,

    Thanks for you post and for the enormous amount of helpful insight into what you do!

    I for one started 2010 with a building sense of desperation as our church had really begun to grow and with it a change in the ‘type’ of people attending. I’m in the bible belt where a lot of people have grown up going to church (traditional setting) but have never learned to be the church. Anyway, there were a few weeks toward the end of 2009 where I was about to throw in the towel. In an act of desperation I tried everything from doing Crowder’s “We Won’t Be Quiet” to delivering stern “prophetic” messages slightly akin to visiting a toolshed to get the people on board. Well, needless to say, I took some time away and realized that God was pointing out that I was missing the point. I got convicted to start praying more and on a practical level, strip down the music, not doing any raucous and overly energetic music, at least for the first song. It really freed me up to just let it happen, to not force it down their throats. I recently heard Paul Baloche talk about how Sundays are the unconcert and I’ve always believed it but I had gotten away from living it out, putting too much pressure on myself to make this epic thing happen every week and taking way too much credit when it did.

    Anyway, keep blogging bro…it’s been much appreciated!

    ps. I’m just getting my feet wet on leading with electric guitar (fender tele deluxe w/ AC 15 celestion blue set up) and your posts have been incredibly helpful in designing a pedal board!!!

  37. Wow, awesome perspective, brother. I too can get way to into what I do, and not enough into letting things happen and God lead. It’s such a hard balance sometimes, as preparation and planning is a good thing…in its place. Awesome comment, bro.

    And congrats on the rig! I’m playing a Blue as well, and love it. :) Cheers!

  38. Right on, bro! Thanks a ton! And that’s rad that you wrote the latest Laura Story song. :) I feel honored to have a famous person leaving a couple comments over here! :)

  39. Great post; good examples too. Is this “post of the day” or are all the comments about a year ago, like my computer says under each poster’s name? Anyway, what stands out to me is “passion”, one of my fav words and ways to negate phoniness.

  40. This post caught me off guard. I need to go think about your observations. I feel some personal growth coming. Thanks.

  41. Jeremiah–haha Not that I know of. ;)

    Jay–ya, the post of the day is just old posts cycled through. This one is fairly old. And great call on passion!

    Clay–haha Cool, man. :)

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