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Concert Reviews:
Commissioned takes it to church for home town reunion at the Fox Theatre

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

Posted: Saturday, November 2, 2019

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DETRIOT -- Commissioned tried to lower expectations before the start of the home town stop on its Reunion Experience tour stop Friday night, Nov. 1, at Fox Theatre.

A message on the video screen reminded fans that it's been "a really, really long time" (more than a dozen years) since the gospel supergroup has been on stage. It asked the crowd to forgive all manners of mistakes, including missed harmonies technical cues and up to and including "snuggy and tight-fitting wardrobe...We promise it's not sexual. It's denial."

No apologies were necessary once the septet and its band hit the stage, however.

Yes, there were mistakes during the nearly three-hour show -- primarily with out-of-sync video content all the night. But fans came to see, and hear, what was happening on the stage and in the flesh, and that did not disappoint.

As has been Commissioned’s habit since the mid-80s, Friday's show blended church service, prayer meeting and pop concert, fortified by a genuinely warm family reunion vibe with the audience and with each other. The performances were tight but the attitude was loose, friendly and sentimental, filled with smiles, nods and occasional handshakes as Commissioned rolled through more than two dozen songs from its repertoire of Christian music hits and some solo favorites from Fred Hammond, Jr. and Marvin Sapp.

The group's trademark harmonies were intact, too, and hearing it deliver the likes of "Love Isn't Love," "Hold Me" and "I Can't Live Without You," among others, it was easy to understand why Commissioned has been cited as an influence by Boyz II Men, *NSYNC and more.

The troupe -- which is working on a biopic as well -- shifted smoothly between playful and reverent on Friday. It tossed a bit of Kool & the Gang's "Get Down On It" into "Back in the Saddle" and the Jacksons' "Can You Feel It" into "Let Me Tell It." The show was indeed the "party" Hammond called for on a few occasions, but many of the highlights came during its most spiritual moments -- Hammond's choir-assisted "It Will be Alright," Sapp's soaring vocalics on "I Am Here" and "Never Would Have Made it," Keith Staten's testimony on "Will You Be Ready?" and a smooth pairing of "The City" and "The Anthem." Lisa Page Brooks, wife of Commissioned songwriter and keyboardist Michael Brooks, also raised the roof when she joined the group for "Go Tell Somebody."

Hammond and Sapp also took time to remember Commissioned's first encounter with the latter, when Sapp opened for the group in Grand Rapids early in its career, when he was just 15, and then wound up being part of it seven years later. "If it wasn’t for the vision of these guys, you never would have heard Marvin Sapp," he noted. “Never, ever forget the bridge that brought you over.

That sense of gratitude and reunion joy was palpable throughout the night, right up to the closing "Love is the Way." Just before that, Hammond asked the Fox crowd, "Did you enjoy seeing your boys come home?" -- as if there was any doubt what the answer would be.

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