Larry Norman in concert; Saturday, 8/4/2007
Calvary Baptist Church; New York City
Yesterday I shared some personal notes about the events leading up to the concert. (Click here for Part 1.) Today I would like to share some more about the concert itself. Can you tell I’m a fan? 🙂
The following write-up will probably make more sense to you if you are familiar with Larry and his music, but either way it should give you a good sense of what the concert was like. Larry talks a lot between songs, so I have tried to summarize some of what he said during the night. I have also included snippets from some of the songs in case you are not familiar with them.
Larry approached the stage slowly. He had difficulty climbing the stairs and looked like he was not comfortable physically. (Larry suffered a major heart attack a number of years ago and has had health struggles ever since.) He joked about how he played a concert here 35 years ago and never got invited back – until now!
He talked briefly about Christian persecution in other lands and then began with his song “Peace Pollution Revolution.”
The word is revolution but no one’s fired a shot
Each side has it’s battle plans and detailed counterplots
And the world is closely watching as we near the battle lines
But if you’re truly wise, you’ll keep your eyes on Palestine.
Next he talked some about the different concerts he had played over the years. He talked abut playing in front of large crowds and small crowds. He said he tried never to think about playing for an audience, that you are always playing for individuals. He said he felt like playing some older songs and then sang “Forget Your Hexagram.”
After “Hexagram” he actually asked if the sound man could turn his guitar volume lower! (That’s got to be a first!) He said he wanted to sing louder but couldn’t because of his health, so maybe if they turned the guitar lower, it would make his voice sound louder! Then he sang “Reader’s Digest.”
After “Reader’s Digest” he shared about his trip to New York City back in 1972. He had come out here to play at the Bitter End, and decided to take the train through Canada rather than fly. He was taking the train through Canada and suddenly found himself in France. That is everyone around him was talking French, and no one was really trying to help him with the language barrier.
He started getting the idea for a song about a man up in Canada who was down on his luck but then someone came up to encourage him. He didn’t write the song while in Canada but wrote it when he got to New York City. He then sang “Up in Canada.” (Note: “Up in Canada” is on the 1972 Restless in Manhattan concert CD. I wonder if that was the first time he sang it in concert? Or he may have sung it at the Bitter End earlier that week.)
He introduced the next song as written about “my hero,” and then sang “Outlaw” – a song that looks at the different ideas people had about Jesus before ending with the verse:
Some say he was the Son of God, a man above all men,
But he came to be a servant and to set us free from sin.
And that’s who I believe he was, ’cause that’s who I believe.
And I think we should get ready, ’cause it’s almost time to leave.
Larry was struggling with the guitar a bit and shared that his own guitar had been damaged by the airlines, and so he was using a borrowed guitar. There were actually three borrowed guitars available for him on stage – two steel string guitars and one nylon string. He used the nylon string for all the guitar songs, but the wider neck was causing some difficulty.
He shared about his ministry over the years and how he had felt called to sing to non-Christians, but then realized there were plenty of non-Christians in the church, and so he began to sing for churches as well.
He talked about witnessing, and how for the first five years, he gave altar calls at the end of his concerts. It was something he had learned growing up in a Southern Baptist church, but no one ever came forward, so he eventually stopped doing them. He said he always felt better just talking to people in the streets. It was only later that he learned some people had responded during the altar calls, but just were not comfortable coming forward.
He talked about the importance of obeying God in small steps, and that when we obey God in the small things, we get better at hearing God’s voice, or perhaps God just starts talking louder. He talked about not just planting seeds by witnessing, but watering those seeds. He said the best way to water seeds is to mow someone’s lawn or offer babysitting, that is serving others. Service is what the world notices and is essential to our witness for Christ.
Then he went back to talking about altar calls, and how when he was young, the preacher would tell everyone to close their eyes and then ask people to raise their hands if they wanted to accept Christ. Then he would have everyone open their eyes and ask those who had just raised their hands to all come forward. “What a dirty trick!” Larry said with a smile.
Then Larry sang “Small Circle of Friends.”
Well my life is filled with songs
But I just could not get along without my friends
And I’m happy now but when this good life ends
I know a better life begins.
After that he started “God Part III” but stopped after the first line (“I don’t believe in Beatles”) and started talking about John Lennon and how John Lennon in the last three months of his life had started reading the Bible and even called in to a Christian TV show to accept Christ. Apparently Lennon also wrote two songs about Jesus during this time, which were passed on to Larry by Steve Turner, but which were not to be made available to the general public. Larry also talked about Elvis and his final days.
At this time Denny Fridkin from People! joined Larry on stage. Denny sat at the congas and played percussion and sang harmonies with Larry for the rest of the songs until the intermission. It was obvious that these two men had a lot of mutual respect and admiration for each other and a long-term friendship. First they sang “I Love You” and “She’s a Dancer.”
Larry then shared about his heart attack and how when he first went to the hospital, different people kept coming up to him and asking him the same set of triage questions while he was screaming in pain for a doctor. When the fourth or fifth person came up and started asking the same questions all over again, Larry asked him why everyone kept asking him the same questions but he still hadn’t seen a doctor. The man explained that they weren’t doctors. They were UCLA students, and they were practicing asking questions!
Larry was finally admitted to the operating room when suddenly it seemed like everything was happening in slow motion. The way he explained it, it did not sound like he received good medical care, and he summed it all up by saying, “I guess that’s why they call it ‘practicing medicine.'” When he woke up after surgery, he asked the nurse where he was. She said, “I see you.” “Of course you can see me, but where am I?” She said “I see you” again, and then he realized she was saying he was in ICU.
He said people sometimes ask, “Why did God allow all these terrible things to happen to you?” His answer: “Who says it’s terrible?” Yes, he has lived a very different life since the heart attack and has had many limitations as a result, but he has also grown closer to God and grown in compassion for others.
Next he shared about when he and his brother were poisoned in Russia, but I won’t go into all the details of that here. Then he and Denny sang “666,” “Sweet, Sweet Song of Salvation,” and “God Part III.” Larry had everyone sing along with “Sweet Song.”
Sing that sweet, sweet song of salvation,
And let your laughter fill the air
Sing that sweet, sweet song of salvation
To the people everywhere
Sing that sweet, sweet song of salvation
To every land and every nation
Sing that sweet, sweet song of salvation
And let the people know that Jesus cares.
The concert started at 7:40 p.m. and it was now about 10:10 p.m. We had a brief intermission, and then the concert started up again about 10:30 p.m. Larry sat at the piano and played a medley of songs without any talking in between. I have included the songs on the set list below.
His voice was in fine form on these songs, and his strong, high tenor was such a pleasure to hear. My favorite song from this set was “Haight Street” – beautifully performed with lots of emotion, love, and sorrow for those who found drugs but missed God while looking for love on Haight Street.
And that was it! Larry came out afterwards for pictures and CD signings and just to chat with people, which was very generous of him, because I don’t believe he was feeling well physically. I got a picture of him with my whole family, and shared with him briefly that I had done a re-write of “Small Circle of Friends” for the tribute CD that Ken Tucker put together a number of years back. I told him, “I hope you didn’t mind!” and he just laughed.
All in all it was a great concert, and I am so glad that my three boys got a chance to hear Larry live after all these years. I will be looking for the DVD when it comes out and will definitely want to buy it.
On Guitar (solo):
– Peace Pollution Revolution
– Forget Your Hexagram
– Readers’ Digest
– Up in Canada
– Small Circle of Friends
– God Part III (first line only)
On Guitar (with Denny Fridkin):
– I Love You
– She’s a Dancer
– Sweet, Sweet Song of Salvation (with audience)
– God Part III
– I Wish We’d All Been Ready (on piano and in a higher range than usual)
– I Am a Servant
– One Way
– I Don’t Believe in Miracles
– Baby Out of Wedlock
– Haight Street
– Strong Love Strange Peace (just the last line)
- Larry Norman Funeral Video Montage
- Larry Norman’s Funeral/Memorial Service
- Larry Norman on NPR
- Some Larry Norman Videos
- My Tribute Song to Larry Norman
- Larry Norman Sings Goodbye Farewell
- Larry Norman Passes Away (1947-2008)
- Larry Norman Concert in New York City (1)
- Family Trip to New York
- Preaching Tired
- Buying Music the Old Way