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Real and Surreal: Rabbit Room Writers Visit Nebraska

Somehow Eric Peters regularly finds his way to my home state of Nebraska. It’s one of those happy little curiosities that evolve over time, that isn’t really easy to explain. When Peters makes his way to these Midwestern plains, I make every attempt to catch as many of the shows as possible. In his latest Cornhusker State appearance, he brought Randall Goodgame. Can you imagine? Eric Peters and Randall Goodgame on the same ticket? As a passionate supporter of both artists, I couldn’t believe my good fortune.

Most of their supporters know that these artists are members of The Square Peg Alliance. They also know that though both artists have markedly different styles, they share the gift of writing literate songs which offer the potential to resonate deep in the soul of those with ears to listen.

This past weekend, I had the good fortune and privilege of witnessing two consecutive shows from these great artists, both regular contributors to The Rabbit Room. The first show was in Lincoln on the campus of Union College while the second show was just 50 miles up the road in Omaha, in a little coffee shop called, The Foundry. I missed a third show held at another church in Lincoln and a fourth show was cancelled close to the scheduled date.

The shows were different in the way that fraternal twins are sometimes different, on the surface looking and sounding similar, but each night delivering show’s with significantly different personalities. Each night sported many of the same songs and song introductions–but offered completely different vibes.

One of the serendipitous joys of the first night at Union College was the addition of Bret Welstead on percussion and Ben Yancer on cello. If there was a rehearsal, it must have been brief. Despite that, the accompaniment was complimentary, not dominating. Like an opening act that wears out its welcome, it might have been tempting for Welstead or Yancer to show off with individual musical flashes, standing out like the proverbial sore thumb. To the contrary, the cello and drum inserts were appropriate and rarely out of synch. They were complimentary, not intrusive.

Randall and Eric adapted the in-the-round approach to their two-man Friday night show, with each artist playing two songs, then relinquishing the stage, intermittently joining the other in harmony or instrumental support. Eric Peters was Eric Peters. Thoughtful, transparent, accommodating, precise, and so very good. Randall Goodgame seems as comfortable on stage as in his own living room, with a down-home, gregarious, known-you-all-my-life persona. By the way, nobody ever told me that Randall Goodgame played such a wonderful piano. His keyboard style is like a jazz instrumentalist, with unexpected musical ad libs and embellishments.

The Set List From the Union College Show:

“Dust to Dust” – EP – in the introduction Eric talked about his early walk with God in which he never doubted His existence but sometimes doubted His intentions. Those comments framed this song in a completely different light for me and clarified some long held questions I had about a couple of the lines.

“Share the Well” – RG – This Randall Goodgame penned song was the title track from the Caedmon’s Call CD of the same name and also makes an appearance on War and Peace.

“Part 1” – RG – Randall shed some light on this song, offering an inside track on Harry Truman’s appearance in the song, for those that scratch their head about such an inclusion.

“These Three Remain” – EP – Randall added piano spice on this classic from Eric Peters. It’s one of Eric Peters’s most impressive songs. With Goodgame’s keyboard flourishes and Ben Yancer’s cello contribution, this song sounded as good as I’ve heard it sound in a live setting.

“Radiate” – EP – This uptempo showpiece from Scarce really inspired the crowd.

“Come Jubilee” and “Heaven Waits” – These are both new Randall Goodgame songs. Both songs showcase Randall’s musical eclecticism with gospel, and jazz flavors.

“These Hands” – EP – This one never fails to manufacture a lump in my throat.

“Save Something for Grace” – Eric explained from where the inspiration to the song came. It was a line from the Kathleen Norris book, The Cloister Walk, “We try to be holy without being human first.”

“Reverie” – RG – A gorgeous song written for his wife, Amy.

“Jesus is All I Need” – RG – Another Caedmon’s Call recorded tune which is also on War and Peace. This is one of my favorite later day Randall Goodgame compositions. Without uttering one sermon-like word, this well-crafted song elegantly teaches humility, perspective, and gratitude.

“Squeeze” – EP – Eric shared the familiar story of his Young Life friend who gave him the idea for this song, a stone that morphs into something more valuable.

“May Your Tenderness” – EP – Eric talked about the evolution of this song, from a poignant ballad to an uptempo, two-step zydego styled song. The line, “Our first winter was not so long ago,” has evolved to, “Our first winter was ten years ago.” I’ve followed this slight lyrical modification from its original form, which by extension means that I have been an Eric Peters fan for a long time now.

“Jerusalem” – RG

“You Can Be Yourself” – EP – This light-hearted yet substantial gem from Scarce comes off as particularly striking in a concert setting due to its inherent energy. Eric Peters’s rare talent for crafting lyrics which are sing along great, yet also deliver lines such as, “If love is a fool’s maze, I want to get lost,” and “If love is a new day, I want to wake up,” or how about this: “Sometimes we get hurt, and love gets crushed on earth, but we still love because we’ve been loved first.” Like a secret code to those in the know, this allusion to I John 4:19 is one of one thousand reasons why I love Eric Peters music.

The Coffee Shop show was–how shall I say–uh, a bit surreal. An unfortunately small audience, eccentric opener, and lackadaisical coffee shop volunteers all combined to create a show from Randall and Eric which was spontaneously laid-back, chipper, care-free, and unconventional. I told my friend John that it was like a house concert without the house. How many shows have you attended in which the performer invites song requests, and then give the audience time to ponder the answer when they are indecisive? (I requested “Charlie Robin,” a treat that Goodgame brought out of retirement; he couldn’t recall doing the song live in over three years.) Granted, it was probably more enjoyable for the audience than the performers, but these Square Pegs made the best of less than ideal circumstances with graceful and passionate performances, and more than a smidgen of good humor.

The next time you learn of and Eric Peters or Randall Goodgame concert within a few hundred miles of your home, I strongly recommend you make the drive. These guys are likely to provide a memorable performance, even without an audience. And if you haven’t claimed their music as your own, what’s holding you back? The Rabbit Room Store features collections from both artists. As with all of the art available here, if you make a purchase, consider it your important contribution to insure that this kind of beauty remains available in our world for a long time.

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