August 25, 2013 | by Joey DiGuglielmo
Amy Grant: live and unguarded
Amy Grant at the Birchmere. (Blade photo by Joey DiGuglielmo)

Amy Grant at the Birchmere. (Blade photo by Joey DiGuglielmo)

Sometimes sacred/sometimes secular singer/songwriter Amy Grant played an exceedingly generous two hour-plus set at the Birchmere Thursday night, her first visit to the iconic Alexandria, Va., venue.

Her usual self-deprecating self, Grant (52) is touring behind current album “How Mercy Looks From Here,” which dropped in May and was her first album of all-new material in a decade. Thursday’s show found her darting all throughout her vast discography (she started in the late ’70s) from tender early gospel hits (“Father’s Eyes,” “El Shaddai” and “Thy Word”) to big pop hits (“Find a Way,” “Baby Baby” and “Every Heartbeat”), five cuts from the new album and several singles that had — at  various times — spent eons out of set list rotation like “Sing Your Praise to the Lord” and “1974.” “You’re Not Alone,” a non-single from Grant’s landmark 1991 album “Heart in Motion,” was an especially nice opener.

Grant sometimes tours with just a small acoustic combo, but had her full band with her at the Birchmere. They’re a solid and robust group of seasoned pros. The only downside? Grant’s lead vocals — decent sounding but not as powerful as they were in the ’80s and ’90s — sounded buried in the mix for much of the night. This has been a problem at other shows for her. It would seem an easy enough thing to fix — simply raising her mic level slightly, yet this never seems to happen. A lengthy sound check open to fan club members in the afternoon seemed to address every issue but that.

Many gay and lesbian couples attended the show and represent a large chunk of Grant’s hardcore fan base. Wary for years of saying much one way or the other, Grant (who’s straight and married to Vince Gill) gave a gay press interview earlier this year expressing somewhat measured acceptance. An album of Grant’s hits remixed by top DJs is expected this fall.

Grant’s set list:

1. You’re Not Alone

2. Takes a Little Time

3. Father’s Eyes

4. Find a Way

5. What the Angels See

6. Saved By Love

7. Everywhere I Go

8. Every Heartbeat

9. Our Time is Now

10. Don’t Try So Hard

11. Oh How the Years

12. Here

13. 3rd World Woman

14. Free

15. Baby Baby

16. Sing Your Praise to the Lord

17. Better Than a Hallelujah

18. Thy Word

19. El Shaddai

20. Helping Hand medley

21. Emmanuel

22. Love of Another Kind

ENCORE:

23. Put a Little Love in Your Heart

24. Birthday (Beatles cover/Pat leads)

25. 1974

26. That’s What Love is For

27. Say Once More

Joey DiGuglielmo is the Features Editor for the Washington Blade.

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