Phil Keaggy - Still Jamming
Live at Robert Wesleyan College:
Rochester, NY — April 17, 2004

A SoundPress.net Archive Article by Rich and Laura Lynch

Phil Keaggy has been dazzling music fans for decades with his solo work and collaborations. From his early days with the power-trio Glass Harp to contemporary times with Christian rockers P.O.D. – Keaggy's guitar licks add poise and passion to any project. Phil's catalog is diverse, ranging from vocal heavy albums to impressive instrumentals.


Phil Keaggy in Rochester: Phil has a new-look website and a live DVD coming out!

Even if you are unfamiliar with his music, Phil is an amazing live performer. He is an expert experimental guitar player who is also a one-man band. On stage, Keaggy uses a device known as the Jam Man. This piece of equipment enables him to play multiple parts that are temporarily stored and can be played back as a loop. With a tap of his foot, Phil can start and stop these loops as he sings and plays lead guitar over them. By choosing low chords, Keaggy can craft a bass line and combine it with guitar licks and self-created sound effects. Phil is very apt and is able to generate a full-bodied sound. He can play complex chord arrangements on his acoustic guitar while singing songs of faith, hope and life that are inspiring with or without the Jam Man.

I suppose I am somewhat biased having been a fan of Phil since the early nineties. Yet anytime we invite someone new to a Keaggy concert they have a good time and leave with a greater appreciation of Phil's musicianship, his innovative work with the Jam Man and his genuine love of the Lord.

Right from the start of the Rochester show, Phil demonstrated his mastery of the guitar and the Jam Man. Keaggy was quick to set up an assortment of rhythms for the first song. By tapping on the body of his acoustic guitar, Phil produced a beat and combined it with echoes for 'Be Exalted, Oh God'. The crowd enthusiastically clapped along as Phil had fun playing multi-layered rifts.

'Shades of Green' is a double capo song inspired by a trip to Ireland. Phil described it as Tennessee meets Dublin. Keaggy used taps, eggs and a small triangle to add texture to the track. Midway through this whimsical instrumental, Phil fiddles in his pocket to pull out a bar that he placed over the hole of the guitar, which then emanated a unique sound giving the second bridge a world vibe.

Next, Phil performed a composition from "It's Personal" a new indie release. In fact they are all indie projects now stated Keaggy who is now a completely independent musician after working with both major and smaller record labels for over 30 years. 'Lost In You' was a straightforward singing/acoustic number that showcased Phil's angelic vocals and range.

Keaggy was in good sprits on Saturday night, reminiscing about playing in the Rochester region and how great New York state audiences are. He than played two vintage tracks, 'That Is What The Lord Will Do' and 'Full Circle'. Phil is still in great voice and the use of double guitar chords with layered beats was striking. Phil joked about hitting the wrong buttons on the Jam Man but the songs still sounded great even with minor mistakes.

The following two songs were a celebration of his life with Bernadette his wife of thirty years. 'Happy Anniversary, Love' and 'Motorbike' are full of visual reflections and impressive acoustic guitar work.

Keaggy beat upon the base of the guitar scratched the strings and layered leads into the Jam Man for a commanding expanded version of 'Salvation Army Band'. At some point, he was playing at the top of the guitar neck to craft unique sounds and effects. 'Under the Grace', Your Light' and 'Paka' rounded out the first set.

During the break Phil and a spokesperson talked about Compassion ministry. Keaggy has been an avid supporter of this organization that aids children in depressed nations. With a monthly donation of $28.00 individuals can sponsor a child. Without this aid many children would not have an opportunity to attend school or have basic needs met. In addition to positively changing a life and sharing the good news, Compassion handles correspondences between sponsor and child. Folks can write to the child they are supporting to give encouragement and in turn receive letters from their child. Compassion has been helping children one at a time throughout the world for over fifty years.

Also during intermission, a handcrafted acoustic guitar was raffled with the proceeds going to a local Christian youth group. The lucky winner was handed the guitar on stage right after Phil autographed it.

The second set started with a quick 'Happy Birthday' song to a member of the audience. Next Phil played the crowd pleasing 'John the Revelator'. Midway through the song he switched from the acoustic to an electric guitar. Phil experimented with some wild riffs and the whammy bar. 'Duct Tape Universe' was another improvisational number where Keaggy toyed with a variety of techniques and jams.

Blasting back to the past, Phil blended 'What A Day' and 'Love Broke Through' with more incredible guitar work. Keaggy returned to the present introducing a few more new songs before closing with 'True Believers' featuring echoing vocals and multi-faceted guitar leads. The encore was a cover of Rich Mullins' 'Hold Me Jesus'.

The audience thoroughly enjoyed the music and the auditorium at Robert Wesleyan College has fine acoustics and comfortable seats. It is a good venue to see a show. There was an art gallery to tour before the concert and the evening as a whole ran smoothly. At the start of the show it was announced that the concert was being taped and that the April 17, 2004 performance might appear on a future CD. Fans are still anticipating the long-awaited Phil Keaggy live concert DVD called "Philly Live" scheduled for a Spring 2004 release.

Related Links: For more information on Phil Keaggy and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links -- PhilKeaggy.com | Compassion.com

(Originally Published on April 26, 2004)

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