The first time I saw Michael O’Brien was as an up and coming solo artist opening for NewSong, the band that he would go on to spend six years singing with. I was always impressed with his singing and songwriting ability, and actually used one of his songs “And The Story Goes On” in my own concerts for a couple of years. Tonight I had the pleasure of seeing him as a solo artist again, for an evening of worship at the Winshape Retreat center on the campus of Berry College in Rome.
The setting was small, and the audience equally so, with about 40 in attendance. Nevertheless, Michael took his place at the piano and provided a lucky few with a wonderfully intimate evening of worship. After kicking off with a medley of “It Is Well / Sometimes By Step / Awesome God”, he settled into a set dominated largely by songs from his newest release “Be Still My Soul”. The CD takes a more laid back, low key approach and the concert did likewise. In the hands of a lesser artist, this could be death onstage, but Michael led us confidently through the evening and kept things moving with simple yet powerful songs of worship interspersed with testimony and inspiration behind them.
For me, some of the highlights of the evening were a new arrangement of “Blessed Assurance”, “Petition”, and a new piece called “When Life Gets Broken” (recently recorded by Sandy Patty, and a tune with which this author can certainly relate). It was also good to hear a more stripped down version of one of my favorite songs from his NewSong days, “I’ll Rise”. This also may be the only concert I’ve seen where the audience got to make up its own ending to a praise song (don’t ask, you had to be there!).
An incredible night with an incredible artist, done the way worship music should be done…..simple, straightforward, and passionate. Thanks for a great night, Michael!