God knew what was going to happen when Michael W. Smith recorded his first live worship album that released on the fateful day of September 11, 2001. He also knew the timing was perfect with DVD technology now being what it is today and its popularity being as great as ever. In other words, the listener will never realize just how meant for DVD Michael's album Worship was until they witness it for themselves. Some DVD treatments of musical projects can be relatively basic, but I cannot express enough how impressed I am with Michael W. Smith's 2002 DVD Worship.
There are so many good points to the DVD that it's difficult to know where to start. Worship is comprised of a feature live performance at YC 2002 at the Skyreach Centre in Alberta Canada. It's a completely separate performance than what was recorded for the album Worship or even his follow-up, Worship Again. This makes for a different audience, a different set list, and just a whole new experience. One thing I liked most about this performance is Smitty's backup choir is about a fifth of what was on Worship. This helped make the performance a little more laid back without the impressive (but unnecessary) collection of CCM artists demonstrating their immense vocal power to overbear the overall worship experience. On the Worship album, Michael seemed to be lost in the power of the choir and the end result just seemed a little much. With the vocal support toned down this time around, the songs have a more intimate feel and it's easier to find yourself lost in the crowd. With the choir size cut down so much, the audience's participation takes over and creates a much more intimate and powerful setting with each song than the album did.
The DVD itself opens with a thankfully brief and adequate intro and features attractive if not impressive animated menus. They also definitely do not short change the consumer when it comes to features. Once you're finished with the concert, you can go back and watch it again with audio commentary provided by Michael W. Smith himself and his management. It's definitely a treat to hear Smitty's comments on specific moments in the performance or his explanations of songs he wrote or was inspired by. Another cool feature is a time lapse of the transformation the stadium underwent in preparation for the evening. The hours of work that went into it is sped up to a mere minute or two with instrumental music from Smitty's "The Call" played to accompany it. Surprisingly enough, the DVD also includes what they consider as "deleted scenes" for the project and include a few brief candid moments with the choir and crew. As if that isn't enough, you can also watch a "making of" featurette, behind-the-scenes footage, an electronic press kit (EPK) for Worship, multi-angles for two songs, a trailer for the DVD, photos, hidden features, and more! It's also pretty cool to see the show featured in 16 x 9 widescreen format.
The concert itself is a powerful worship experience. From the opening moments of Smitty wading through the crowd on his way to the stage to perform "Step By Step" melded with his original "Forever We Will Sing," it's obvious the filming is quality and the cinematography is often beautiful. A split screen is sometimes utilized to briefly show two different angles of the stage or to show the audience. No matter what's going on, the producers make sure the DVD remains visually exciting at all times. The funny thing is, however, it isn't long into the video before keeping your eyes open becomes a struggle. The presence of God is so powerful in the project that you're liable to find yourself on your knees, carefree of the what's occuring visually, with arms raised toward heaven in praise. At the close of the concert with a cover of the late, great Rich Mullins' "I See You," Smith makes a point to redirect the crowd's applause from himself to our Creator, giving credit where credit is due.
While Smitty's stuff isn't usually my cup of tea, and the Worship album a little too extravagant for my tastes, Michael W. Smith does something absolutely amazing with this DVD project. He makes it a night dedicated to praising our Heavenly Father and Jesus shows up. Grab this project today and just try to watch the whole thing without joining in. You can't! So worship hard!- written by John DiBiase
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