Many of the stories related the most trying and difficult times in the lives of the people who wrote them. More often than not they were about the hardest times and those pivotal moments that define who they are today.
Broken Girl, Healing Hearts
After spending two weeks in the cabin, West shared a song called Broken Girl with his tour manager, Josh Berry. The song was based on a problem that is all too common: girls who had been sexually abused at a young age. When Berry heard the song, he insisted that West play it at the show that night. Although West was concerned about the dark tone of the song, he agreed to play it. The next morning, West received an e-mail from a man who said that the song "really hit home." Twenty years ago, the man had molested his four-year-old daughter. He went to prison for it and served his sentence. But at the concert the night before, he and his daughter were together, walking through the healing process. That's the kind of impact the show had imparted to audiences across the nation.
Every night of the tour, one person or another has approached West after the show and said they were the Broken Girl. The success of the song is evident in the reaction it receives on stage as well as in cyberspace; it is the second most downloaded song of the album on iTunes.
After spending two months in the cabin, West shared the stories and the resulting songs with a collection of industry people. Among the stories were various themes of broken homes, cancer, abuse and many other struggles.
"It was so amazing to sit there looking at the stacks of folders with thousands of stories in the very place Matthew wrote these songs," Berry said. "The way he shared the stories and songs was an experience in itself."
Later that day, Berry called West. "What do you think about bringing the cabin to the people?" The idea was to recreate the cabin environment live on stage every night of the upcoming tour.
"Matthew loved the idea, and over the next few months we worked on the design of the backdrop and over a dozen videos that interweave throughout the show," Berry said.
For the first half of the show, a simple set belies much of the scenery. Then a kabuki system reveals a backdrop with a full-sized rendering of the cabin, windows and all, plus the main video screen and the full lighting system for the second half of the show. The backdrop was painted by Grosh Backdrops and Drapery and the kabuki drop was supplied by Kozmic Lazer Show.
"The key was to make sure (the show) didn't feel over-produced. We wanted it to look and feel very authentic every night," Berry relayed. "I wanted Matthew to share these stories and songs in a way that recreated the feeling I felt when I was in the cabin listening."
It seems the stage design has hit its mark. "The tour has been on the road for four weeks and it's nearly impossible for anyone in the audience not to relate to some part of the show," Berry added. West plays the entire new album, which was released in early October, from front to back.
J. Walker Clarke, Jr. of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association said the show is "a perfect evening."
"Matthew West and his production team have done an amazing job bringing his new project to a live setting," he said. "Never before have I seen so much done with so little. The production never gets in the way of the experience, rather it magnifies and brings to life the incredibly moving subject material from Matthew in this intimate setting."
Helping to convey the mood of the stories is a lighting package consisting of eight Martin MAC 301 LED color wash fixtures, six Martin MAC 250 Entours, 15 Martin Stagebar 54 LED units and 12 LED PARs. The front lighting was supplemented by venue fixtures. For controls, lighting director Danny Zacharias uses a Flying Pig Systems Hog iPC running in Hog 2 mode. The audio and lighting was supplied by Louisville, KY-based Axxis, Inc. with some additional lighting from Uplight.
Berry and Kyle Lollis of Lot 35 Productions produced over a dozen video clips for the tour, and Berry credited Lollis for "a killer job." The video was run in Renewed Vision ProPresenter on a MacBook Pro and the video feeds were sent to one main center projection screen and to the house video screens. The projector and screen was provided by Big Picture.
All of the gear, set, backline and merchandise travels in a single 16-foot trailer behind a bus provided by All Access Staging and Productions. "The best part," according to Berry, is the "A-team," which is made up of a four man crew. Josh Berry is the tour manager and FOH engineer, Danny Zacharias is the LD, Cody Pellerin is the guitar tech/stage manager, and Adam Gatchel is the tech.
Both the band and crew have been excited by the response from audience and show producers alike. It's unlike anything they have been a part of. "It's not entertainment just for the sake of entertainment," says Zacharias. "The Story of Your Life show is very engaging. I don't think it's possible to hear so many real stories of struggles and victories and not be affected in a personal way."
"The presentation was well produced, tasteful in both lighting, video and audio," said Denny Keitzman, senior VP of InteroLive. "But the real power," he added, "comes from the life stories that Matthew gathered and poured over in a log cabin as he wrote the new music for this album and the very real way that he delivers these stories in song and presentation. Simply put, it's powerful."
Berry has been involved in contemporary Christian music production for several years, but to him, this tour was special. "I don't think people expect to experience such an amazing show. The hope is that there is something positive that will have an impact on the face of America and even the world. It is a privilege to work with Matthew. I have worked with Matthew for over a year now and he is the real deal. He really cares about people and their stories. He has a talented manager, band and team around him."
Promoter David Gregory echoed the sentiment. "It was an amazing show with great audio, lighting and everything else you would expect. What was most amazing however, was the huge impact that was made on our community, the lives that were changed, the spirits that were lifted and the countless testimonies of the hope that was given to those dealing with incredibly tough situations."
The success of the fall tour prompted a 40-city spring tour starting February 2011.
Matthew West's The Story of Your Life Tour
Tour Manager/FOH Engineer: Josh Berry
Lighting Designer/Director: Danny Zacharias
Stage Manager/Guitar Tech: Cody Pellerin
Tech: Adam Gatchel
1 Flying Pig Systems Hog iPC running in Hog 2 mode
8 Martin MAC 301 LED Color wash fixtures
6 Martin MAC 250 Entours
15 Martin Stagebar 54 LED units
12 LED PARs
1 Eiki LC-XT3 video projector
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