Photo Credit: Baylor Lariat
The line wrapped around the back of the National Theater in Richmond, Virginia, last night. We were all waiting eagerly for the doors to open. Finally, Crowder had come to us on his American Prodigal Tour 2018.
Once in our seats, snugly fitted in a balcony row of a packed house, we got a look at the audience. All ages, all races. You know how it is, going to a concert of a time-tested, enduring and endearing artist, you feel like you are among friends. Then the lights went down, and the opening act took the stage. The Young Escape is a youthful sibling pop band, and they were actually very good.
Then the emcee gave an inspiring and effective pitch about child sponsorship through Childfund International. An intermission followed and the excitement was palpable as we waited for David Crowder.
He and his band never disappoint. They performed for two hours and it was sheer joy to be there and have that audience experience. Really, it didn’t feel like being a spectator. It was as if we were all a part of what was happening on the stage. So much life!
Even in the middle of taking in the great music and the spirit of the moment, I couldn’t help but ponder: what all goes into making this such a joyful and redemptive experience?
Getting home, I couldn’t sleep for a bit, because of all the thoughts bouncing around in my head. David Crowder is a consummate artist, a real crowd-pleaser, and a prophet guide. Something in how he managed that concert experience got me thinking about leadership.
Here is what last night revealed about the essence of a good leader:
A Good Leader:
- Builds trust. – Everyone in that audience (and I’m sure, on the stage) knew they could count on David Crowder for an incredible concert. He has shown himself dependable in this over decades. His proven character and commitment to excellence shown through again last night. Not out of duty, not for the money – but for the sheer joy of it…for his band and crew, for his wife and the rest of us in the audience, and for God.
- Is fully present. – Crowder, in his own brilliant quirky way, seemed completely engaged. There was such a flow with this fellow band mates, the crew, and even the audience. People felt completely comfortable shouting out things to Crowder and what he heard, he responded to. He could have been completely exhausted, given the tour schedule he has, but his focus was as if this was his biggest, most important gig. We felt it and felt valued in it. That full presence with us.
- Has the right people making things happen for everyone’s sake. As mentioned above, his crew seemed to know exactly what to do when, including stepping up to play an instrument when needed. They were switching out instruments for Crowder and moving things around on stage. They knew him and he trusted them. He even admitted that he didn’t always stick to his set list (and last night was no exception), and they just knew how to flex. That kind of commitment, competence, and care were part of what made up the amazing experience of seeing Crowder perform.
- Gives credit to his team. All night long, Crowder gave shout-outs. To his wife, Toni. To the venue – The National Theater. To us in the audience. Then to his band – B.J. Cherryholmes, Todd Bragg, J.R. Collins, Antoine McMullen, and Kenny Hutson. Every one of these musicians could have solo careers. They clearly loved being a part of Crowder’s band and he spent generous stage time on each one of them. That meant a lot to us in the audience because it made them all more knowable…and Crowder, even more lovable. He did not make the concert experience about himself.
- Celebrates past accomplishments, showing value to a multi-generational fan family. I actually wasn’t prepared for this. In his song set were favorites from several albums, including some super oldies. Maybe some of the younger audience weren’t as familiar with the older songs, but it spoke volumes to those of us who bought those albums and were part of that precious past.
- Shares future vision with stake-holders. Toward the end of the concert, Crowder shook up the schedule by asking his band and crew about doing a song “for the first time”. [Turns out it was the second time they had played it in concert but very cool for us to be a part of its coming out.] Great leaders give their teams glimpses of the future…we become more a part of the process when we see a vision unfold, rather than just having it given to us fully-formed at the end of an unknown process. I know this was only introducing a new song to a bunch of fans who eventually will buy the album…but there was something very sweet and inclusive about it. The brief chaos of setting up for that song gave a picture of vulnerability on Crowder’s part. It was winsome.
- Demonstrates passion. – For two straight hours, Crowder exuded a joyful passion in what he was a part of and the message being communicated. This wasn’t just a business. It wasn’t about a celebrity personality. He had just two hours to invest in us maybe even for a lifetime. He took that time and opportunity very seriously, without us feeling any pressure to receive him any particular way, and he sang and played his heart out. His passion reminded us of what could matter in our lives…should we forget.
- Gives real food for thought. Crowder writes and sings about a holy and loving God pursuing a lost and sinful people. The American Prodigal Tour relates to the story of the prodigal son in the Bible. The picture for us today is how much we have in America and how far we have wandered from God and have impoverished ourselves in the wandering. Much of Crowder’s music speaks of redemption, forgiveness, and love…even when we are at our worst (even when we are at our most religious and hypocritical). As he communicated that message through an array of country, rock, and unplugged acoustic music…in the dark of that theater, it gave pause. There was so much more going on to think about and consider than just great music and fun concert vibes.
[In a Q & A article with Crowder on what he hopes fans take away from an upcoming concert, he had this to say:]
I hope that —and music is great at this, so I hope it happens that night— but we have such a hard time living in the awareness that we spend every second in the presence of God and every moment’s sacred, and a night like that can just shift our view to that reality.
So, that would be it. That you leave with an awareness that we are in the very presence of God, and this is sacred and beautiful and worth the journey. We can’t wait to get there. – David Crowder
Can you tell I loved the concert last night…at all kinds of levels?!
For you in the US, hope you are able to catch one of his shows in this tour that that spans most of this year and covers much of the country. In the meantime, check out his work on his website and places like CrowderVEVO.