By Joshua Maloni
Though I was first gifted Amy Grant’s “Heart in Motion” on cassette (yes, that was a thing) in the mid-1990s (also a thing), it wasn’t until Thursday night that I finally saw her live on stage.
In my defense, the Grammy-winning singer told the near-capacity Riviera Theatre crowd it had been eight years since her last Western New York performance.
My first musical encounter with Grant was when she was a top-of-the-charts pop singer, recording and releasing songs such as “Baby Baby,” “Every Heartbeat” and “Good For Me.”
For many inside the historic North Tonawanda venue, their first sampling of Grant songs came when the Tennessee singer was a contemporary Christian musician in the 1980s.
How do I know? Though the audience was into each tune in Grant’s set, it wasn’t until she began a four-song CCM run that people began to sing along. Some even took to the aisle to dance. One elderly woman even held her hands up in worship to God.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from Grant, who also has scored success as a country artist and Christmas connoisseur. The musician smartly crafted a nearly two-hour show that seamlessly switched back and forth among the genres. No song felt out of place.
Grant also showed skill with her storytelling, joking she wished the tickets cost more (as her daughter, the subject of “Baby Baby,” recently wed); honestly assessing aging; and poking fun at herself. In particular, Grant explained how she was sure she couldn’t perform “Heart in Motion” song “Galileo” live, as there simply isn’t opportunity to breath between lyrics. After a late-night practice session – one in which the upbeat melody left Grant dancing through her house – she figured it would be OK.
It’s evident some singers struggle to get through their hit songs night after night, year after year. That doesn’t seem to be the case with Grant, who genuinely seemed to be enjoying herself on stage as she played “Takes a Little Time,” “Lucky One,” Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” and “That’s What Love is For.”
The singer took the crowd to church with “Father’s Eyes,” “Better Than a Hallelujah,” “Thy Word/El Shaddai” and Rich Mullins’ “Sing Your Praise to the Lord.”
A happy house got downright giddy when Grant followed with “Baby Baby,” “Every Heartbeat” and a cover of Jackie DeShannon’s “Put a Little Love in Your Heart.”
That topic – love – was the theme of the night, as Grant encouraged the audience to focus on five sayings (as remembered by five fingers): How can I help you, I’m proud of you, I love you, thank you, and we – as in, let’s work together.
The show wrapped with Grant’s hit “I Will Remember You.”
Though Grant failed to deliver on her promise to perform a Christmas song for me, she gave us all our money’s worth. The show was fun, filled with memorable songs, and a good representation of an artist who has sold tens of millions of albums while collecting numerous golden trophy accolades.
Getting to see Grant in that capacity, well, baby, I’m the lucky one.