Philly Live! Phil Keaggy In Concert
An Evening Of Acoustic Guitar

-- by Stephanie Bargenquast

Phil Keaggy - It's PersonalOne of the most frequent questions I'm asked (apart from that Hendrix thing) goes something like this... "I just saw Phil in concert and was totally amazed. Where can I get a live acoustic recording?" The standard answer has been "… you can't." But now there's good news! Phil's fans have been begging for a live recording for years, and now we have one!

The centerpiece of the DVD is a live acoustic concert recorded one night in late October 2001 -- just Phil with his JamMan and a guitar. How does one distill more than three decades worth of songs and compositions into a single, representative concert set list? Quite a challenge, but the DVD is very successful in its cross-cut of Phil's rich musical history. “Philly Live” includes old and new material, concert staples and unexpected surprises, simple vocal tunes and extended acoustic jams. This will be a great "first concert" for any new fan and a satisfying “homecoming” for old fans!

Phil's performance is wonderful, but not flawless. Phil’s discomfort in front of a camera is, at first, noticeable. But early on, Phil forgets about the taping and focuses on the music and his confidence and creativity shine through. Whether his fingers are flying across the fret board at lightning speed or drawing out one sweet note that seems to last forever, music flows from his heart and hands like a waterfall from a continuous, pure source.

Phil is a musical adventurer, always willing to go in new directions and try new things with his acoustic guitar. This concert DVD examines Phil as he undertakes new musical ideas on the fly and runs with them. Some work, some don't -- but there are no fixes here. Taking a chance on an idea in concert is risky (especially with cameras rolling!) but that sense of adventure and improvisation is what makes every one of Phil's shows unique and keeps fans coming back again and again.

ScreenshotHighlights of the concert are the extended versions of "Salvation Army Band," "Strong Tower," "True Believers," and "John the Revelator" that showcase Phil's willingness to run headlong into the unknown at breakneck speeds. But just as powerful are the simple and heartwarming "Spend My Life with You," "Olivia," and "Maker of the Universe." Given the closeness to 9/11, Phil's concert is more toned down than usual, but there is enough variety to make fans happy. Although the DVD contains few purely instrumental tunes, there are plenty of extended improvisations and outstanding fretwork.

The concert is fantastic, but the bonus DVD material is the icing on the cake. On "In the Studio," Phil gives a brief history of his recording and songwriting techniques as well as a bit of his musical philosophy. The DVD also features thoughts, insights and stories from Robin Crow, Muriel Anderson, Randy Stonehill, Jerry Gaskill & Doug Pinnick (King’s X), Lynn Nichols, road manager Brian Persall and webmaster and publicist Robin Eastburn, among others. There's even a video of Phil playing "Way Back Home" at the infamous water pump! The crowning touch is having Phil Keaggy and Brian Persall in your living room when you watch the DVD! Virtually, at least. There is an optional audio commentary during the concert that's like hanging out with Phil and Brian while you watch the concert. They discuss the who, what, where and why of Phil's songs and techniques, wardrobe and even his mistakes. Far from being boring technobabble, the humorous banter between Phil and Brian will keep every fan entertained.

Good things definitely come to those who wait! Every Keaggy fan should have this DVD, whether they've seen Phil in concert 100 times, have only heard his music through albums, or are new to his work.

You won't regret it, and soon you'll be asking me when Phil is going to do another one!

-- Stephanie Bargenquast

[ Editor's Note: Thanks go to Mark Bacus for his superior editing skills and for helping me make a good review into so much more! ]

For detailed information on Philly Live!, look here, or to get your copy, go to Phil's official website.

Posted: September 9, 2004