People were pulling into the parking lot blasting their favorite Fred Hammond albums. There were many waiting in much anticipation outside The Potter's House in Dallas, up to two hours before the start of the concert. And once everyone was allowed into the church, it quickly filled to capacity.
Fred Hammond was set record the live portion of his upcoming project, Free to Worship.
Patrick Dopson opened, and let the gathered throngs into the throne room with original praise and worship songs. Watch out for this cat. People call him the "white Fred Hammond" not as a diss, but as a compliment.
Israel Houghton came out to emcee and was promptly interrupted by Brown (a.k.a. David Mann), wearing an outfit that only Brown could pull off. So the night had already gotten more exciting and even hilarious. It was only fitting that Brown introduced Tamela Mann, who came out to deliver sheer power and passion. She sang the upbeat "Alright" and the churchy hit "Speak Lord". Sing Tam!
F. Hammond Music’s The Singletons came out next, with their semi-traditional ballad, "Worthy to Be Praised". Amidst some technical problems, the harmonies of this tight family still shined through. They ended their set with lead single and title cut from their latest project, "Better Than That".
Joann Rosario was next, coming out of the block with her jam, "Thanks Be Unto God". She graced the stage letting everyone know of her extreme gratitude to God. She then ministered with "I Hear You Say".
Well, the night got even better when Israel and New Breed hit the stage. The saints went crazy and for good reason. Iz and New Breed rocked the house even though they sang to tracks, bringing “Again I Say Rejoice" before moving to an acoustic version of the praise chorus, "Here I Am To Worship". They ended their set with their smash, "Friend of God".
But the night, of course, belonged to that new resident of the big state, Fred Hammond. A strong bass sound resounded throughout the building as the band and 15 singers walked to their respective places. Band personnel included Bobby Sparks and Stephen Lewis on keys, Todd Parsow on guitars and Calvin Rogers on drums. Backing up vocally were Adrian "Agee" Smith, PamKenyon Donald, Candy West and Davey Hammond.
The groove and then the vocals started a very funky version of "Praise Belongs to You".
Then Fred entered, and the place went wild.
With cameras and tape rolling, Hammond went right into a new praise song, "Now We Come To Celebrate", and encouraged the youth (and all those who considered themselves young) to come to the front of the stage. People were dancing, and, well… celebrating! The tenors were highly energized and that energy was captured on film (you’ll see that on the DVD).
The shift then upped to a higher gear with the swinging "My Faith Will Carry Me", and it became apparent that Hammond had gone to another level. Many may be reminded of his Pages of Life, I and II days, but with a twist.
The dancehall-flava’d "Lord Your Grace" sent the place into a frenzy. So infectious! In the middle of the song, Hammond and crew went into the old favorite "This Is The Day". The singers mesmerized with their jaw-dropping harmonies at the end of piece.
Technical difficulties could not stop Fred Hammond, as he dug into some oldies but goodies, teasing with the chill "Not Just What You Say" before slamming into "Spirit of David". Ok, why did he do that? People were singing the song almost louder than those on stage.
Hammond sang "No Weapon" and flowed right into "Let the Praise Begin". It was great to see ex- RFC members, Joann Rosario, Danielle Stephens and Israel Houghton having a blast up front.
After everyone settled down, Hammond invited Ruben Studdard out to sing a duet with him on "Just A Closer Walk". It was quite apparent how much Hammond has influenced the former American Idol winner as they traded verses. No disappointment here! Hammond then took the song and meshed it with "Draw Nigh". Worship was all over the building.
The recording was so smooth-flowing and worshipful. A powerful version of "More, More More" was featured, and then Hammond graced the crowd with one of his best written songs, “I Am Yours". He explained that his only desire was to know that he belongs to God, and that he wanted that above any song service, any sermon or anything else. Tears flowed from eyes all over the church, and from the eyes of Fred Hammond as well.
This was a night to remember. Fred Hammond may have switched geographical location from Detroit to Dallas, but he hasn’t gone anywhere at all. The months need to speed by because people will never be the same when Free to Worship hits the stores.
Below are some visual highlights of the live recording (photographer credit: Ron Sanders):
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