Eileen and I went to an interesting concert last night; a Christian rock concert at a casino.
That seemed a bit incongruous (more on the casino part later), but the outing was part of a "Kingdom Rockfest" that was sponsored by United Tribes for Christ and located at the Saginaw Chippewa's Soaring Eagle Casino's concert auditorium over in Mount Pleasant. The big CCM group Salvador was the headliner, but three interesting Native-American Christian acts opened the show.
The first band was Visionary; at least that was their name. They played album-rock style with two female lead vocalists, giving veterans of the 70s a quick-and-dirty reference to Heart. However, their main lead vocalist's style reminded me more of a cross between Pat Benitar and Christian praiser Rita Springer; if Springer's off your radar, think of a sanctified Bonnie Tyler as a decent analog. The guitarist had some fast fingerwork that sounded like he listened to more than a bit of Eddie Van Halen over the years.
The second group was the Plateros. Many of the arrangements reminded me of Brian Setzer arranging for ZZ Top. It's a family act, with dad Murphy playing bass and providing most of the vocals, 14 year old Levi playing guitar and a nephew of Murphy's on the drums.
On the first song, Levi reminded me of ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons' hard-forward blues-rock guitar. On the second, he went Carlos Santana, with a guitar line that was very reminiscent of Black Magic Woman. Later on, they went gritty Delta blues, where he sounded like a graying black bluesman rather than a teenaged Indian from New Mexico. Even further on, he played his guitar runs behind his back and over his shoulder without missing a beat.
Levi Platero is on a par with the best guitarists in captivity, at least from what I heard last night. Salvador's front man Nic Gonzales was blown away by him too, saying he wanted to take him on tour with them. He's probably going to need a different vehicle than his family band and may well wind up ministering to a secular crowd, for his killer guitar work would lend itself more to MTV than standard-issue CCM; given the right management, he could go the POD-Jars of Clay route of working both the pop and Christian music universes.
The third group was Steve Williams and the Stew Boogie Band, which added electric keyboards to the standard bass, guitar, and drums; if Visionary's guitarist was "channeling" Eddie Van Halen, the Stew Boogie keyboardist was channeling Steve Winwood, for it had echoes of Winwood's various 60s incarnations more than his 70s-80s solo work. Williams was a bluesy nose tackle of a worshiper.
Finally, Salvador took the stage. They didn't do much of their earlier work that I liked, but they did do their CCM hit cover of Los Lonely Boys' How Far is Heaven; the Plateros did their own take on that earlier, and Levi's guitar got the better of the match in that guitar-driven melody. They must have a praise album that I don't know of, for they did a cover of Your Love, O Lord that didn't have me wishing to hear Mac Powell and a excellent cover of Friend of God punctuated by their killer horn section.
The whole shooting match was free and they didn't even pass the hat. Four hours of great music.
Watch for young Levi Platero on a radio near you.