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Worship Live

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2003 1 Sep
Worship Live
Sounds like … a mix of Santana, Ricky Martin, Burlap to Cashmere, and Dave Matthews Band leading worship with a funky Latin rock flavorAt a glance … not one of the best-produced live albums available, but Salvador's a great worship band and their musicianship will knock your socks off

Developing as a band for just the last four years, Salvador has rapidly earned a reputation as one of Christian music's best live bands. The worshipful Latin rockers do about 200 shows a year, including Acquire the Fire youth events, Promise Keepers conventions, and Billy Graham crusades. With two-and-a-half original albums under their belt, including their all Spanish-language Con Poder project of old and new songs that released just over a month ago, Salvador finally presents their first live album—something fans have been craving since the band first made a splash in 2000.

The unmistakably titled Worship Live, also available on DVD, showcases Salvador at their best. The young band has essentially doubled its lineup since its beginnings, and they've added all the right people: frontman Nic Gonzales (vocals, acoustic guitar), brother Josh Gonzales (bass), Robert Acuna (drums), Eliot Torres (percussion), Damian Martin (lead guitar), Chris Bevins (keyboards), Pablo Gabaldon (trumpet), and Billy Greigo (trombone). This is a superb band, and each member shines at some point on Worship Live. Nic Gonzales proves a fun and balanced leader, charismatic and personable without overdoing it or becoming heavy-handed with the worship. They're all about praising God and having tons of fun doing it; too many worship albums forget that latter part.

Not surprisingly, Nic Gonzales says the song selection for this album was easy. Their best songs from their last three projects clearly stand out, and they're rounded out by half an album's worth of popular worship standards. There's an impressive blend of high-energy tracks with slow ones, plus Salvador's trademark mix of genres, cultures, and worship styles. From their first album are a lively show-starting cover of "David Danced," their funk-infused "Lord I Come Before You," and the wild Latin finale "Montaña," for which the audience goes absolutely nuts. The only representative from 2002's Into Motion is the bouncy funk-rock shuffle "God People," which sounds more fun live than it does here; that could be why their hit single, the less musician intensive "Breathing Life," didn't make the cut. They've also included the title track from Con Poder, which is based on a traditional Latin song heard in many Hispanic churches.

It's with the worship covers that Salvador best demonstrates their skills as arrangers and musicians. A basic cover of Paul Baloche's "Open the Eyes of My Heart" is made interesting because of the jazzy '70s pop style. Co-producer Chris Rodriguez offers his guitar skills on his acoustic arrangement of the classic praise chorus "I Love You Lord," rendered with complex jazz chords and a nice trumpet solo by Gabaldon. Salvador also makes Chris Tomlin's "We Fall Down" their own by adding jazzy chords, a classic electric piano, and a slick guitar solo.

Kudos to the band for making Waterdeep's lesser-known "Those Who Trust" part of their set, adding some Latin spice to the funky original. This is a great example of finding a worship song that is well suited for the band's sound, and they do Waterdeep proud here with a performance worthy of Dave Matthews Band. All of that is also true of Kirk Franklin's "My Desire," popularized by Fred Hammond. It's treated with energy and funk equal to the original, if not more, highlighted by the outstanding keyboard solos of Bevins. Covers of "As the Deer," Delirious' "I Could Sing of Your Love Forever," and Tim Hughes' "Here I Am to Worship" are good, but routine and less impressive than the other tracks.

This is not the best live recording out there, lacking the expansive and polished stereo mixing that most people are accustomed to. Though not badly done, it's rudimentary sounding in an attempt to keep it raw and real. Worship Live also reflects a need for Salvador to come up with some fresh material. They do an outstanding job with the covers, but the best of their original material is now more than three years old. I fear that Salvador could get stuck in a rut, opening and closing their shows the same way every time. Now that they have solidified the band, let's hear them apply it to an album of new material all their own.

Worship Live certainly hasn't revolutionized the genre of worshipful Latin rock, but it delivers exactly what fans would hope for and expect—tight musicianship, lively energy, a fun concert celebration, and effective worship leading. In the absence of Burlap to Cashmere, I'm thankful for a great live band like Salvador, and I eagerly look forward to how they'll apply their skills to future projects.