The slogan for most hit acts in contemporary Christian music seems to be, “good news all the time; give us five minutes and we’ll give you a world of affirmation.”
That’s how Steven Curtis Chapman’s show on Saturday at the Pond of Anaheim played out, and it did not make for the kind of absorbing evening of tension between a fallen world and the uplifting power of belief that a truly excellent contemporary Christian pop act--we await its first coming--would deliver.
Chapman’s music was given mainly to bright proclamations of God’s sovereignty and grace; the minor-key interludes grounded in a fallen world were brief, and even those ended in major affirmations. Granted, Christian music, given its underlying premises, must have the good news as its ultimate message, and uplift as its overriding effect. But good news in every song rings artistically false.
Chapman’s chief appeal lay in the bright energy of the opening sequence of his overlong two-hour set. He and his sharp, six-man band arrived with an enthusiasm and engagement that recalled Garth Brooks. Later they worked in some of the rootsy country and blues licks that highlight Chapman’s new album, “Signs of Life.”
But Chapman seemed to lose steam after the start, and the Kentucky native’s moderately catchy but seldom memorable songs didn’t change the sense that the finest combinations of spirit and high songwriting artistry reside outside any avowedly sectarian realm.