By Jeremiah Trusty
Friday, February 21, 2020, Durham, NC
(ROOT) – With the band in place and the singers dressed in fashionable black, it was time to take to the stage. There was minimal instructions on what to do at a normal LIVE recording and everyone was eagerly awaiting a visitation from the Lord. We knew what type of night we were in for!
Rich set the tone by lifting us into the familiar hymn, “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name”, which seamlessly transitioned into his own song, “Crown Him”. The energy never diminished after that and the entire night was so uplifting. By the middle of the first song, it was already established that we were in for a worship experience and not just a LIVE recording. Freedom was in the air, as people could be seen crying, dancing, praising, smiling, with some even kneeling to a sovereign God. Even the camera crew had a hard time keeping their composure. We were encouraged to trust in God’s sovereignty with the contagious and upbeat, “He’s in Control”. The vamp will ring over and over from the first time you hear it, effortlessly slowing it down with “I’m Alive”, an introspective declaration that prompts us to recognize that because we’re alive, we still have purpose.
The known hits, “Miracle Worker” and “Never Be Defeated” did what we all expected and took us higher. Bringing up a familiar voice, the eldest of the Walls group, Darrel Walls on “He’ll Always Get the Glory”, he and Rich traded riffs and ad-libs that had the audience taking in every bit. The impromptu vamp turned declaration, seemed to transform the audience into one big choir singing about how God will always get the glory. When we thought it couldn’t go any higher, Maranda Curtis started making her way to stage. We KNEW we were about to sit under an open heaven. She raised our expectations and charged the room with faith, only as she uniquely does. Rich’s 11 year-old nephew, Tahir, took the lead on “Jesus, Forever We Will Sing” and it was as sweet as it was powerful. If the evening had ended there, everyone would have been completely satisfied. But nope, there was more!
The final song “Isn’t He Beautiful”, was obviously a fan favorite, but what happened next was unexplainable! With the room being full of guests like Vincent Bohanan and worship leaders, Timothy Reddick and Phil Thompson, we were waiting for the standard mic toss, however, it wasn’t standard, it was a movie! When Rich called Sunday Best winner Melvin Crispell, III to the stage, the room was electrified. With his vocal ability and anointing, it’s something you want to experience in person but just when we thought it was finished, Smokie Norful protegé, Isaiah Templeton, gets up there and wrecks us all!! When Tamila Hairston took the stage, what else can be said besides she brought us right on home.
Overall, it was such a special night, as each song stood on its own. The melodies were catchy, yet inspiring. The lyrics were powerful, yet deliberate. Beyond the beauty and strength of the background vocals, their energy was contagious. The band played with so much enthusiasm, it seemed like it was their last time. Rich Tolbert led the evening well and delivered with so much precision, intention and passion.
If Friday, February 21st in Durham, North Carolina is any indication, his voice and pen will definitely be recognized in the gospel industry for years to come. Without a doubt, this project will be in heavy rotation across the nation. What a night to remember!