A four-hour-plus gospel music program at the Anaheim Convention Center on Saturday night was headlined by Andrae Crouch, the bearded, roly-poly singer who deserves as much credit as anyone for bringing gospel a contemporary sound. But the more traditional performances made a far greater impression.
Singing to a half-full house, Crouch seemed bland compared with others on the bill, especially BeBe and CeCe Winans. The brother-and-sister team--who first attracted notice in 1984 when they appeared regularly on Jim and Tammy Bakker's syndication TV show--have scored such polished and sophisticated, pop-flavored gospel hits as the Grammy-nominated "I.O.U. Me." Saturday, however, they sang and testified in a fiery, beseeching manner that definitely showed traditional roots.
The most traditional approach of the night was taken by Shirley Caesar, often referred to as "the first lady of gospel." A little dynamo, Caesar spent more time down in the aisles than she did up on stage. With such ultradramatic songs as "No Charge" and "The Lord's Been Good to Me," she made no pretensions toward sophistication.
Her intention was to take her listeners "to church," as she put it. And she succeeded, judging by the reaction of those who jumped to their feet to cheer every move she made.
Also appearing at the concert, which was sponsored by the Friendship Baptist Church of Yorba Linda, were two choirs--the Friendship Mass Choir and Benny Goodman and the Generation of Deliverance, both hampered by a malfunctioning sound system--and Beverly and Duane Williams, a married couple with a cheery if less than enthralling style.