Josh Garrels w/ the Sing Team
Neptune Theatre, Seattle, WA

It was a crisp, winter night in Seattle’s University District, but the energy of The Sing Team and Josh Garrels‘ passionate pop warmed the capacity crowd for the last night of Garrels’ “The Light Came Down” Christmas Tour.

Opening the night was local Christian troupe, The Sing Team. This jolly group of musicians came together organically during regular gatherings at lead singer Brian Eichelberger’s house, developing a sound influenced by “Motown, Marvin Gaye, Muppets, and Broadway Musicals.”  Given that description, it should be no surprise that this 7-piece band left it all on stage.

Eichelberger’s passion resonated behind his keyboard and the other band members followed suit. They played classic gospel and Christmas songs including “Go Tell It On The Mountain” and “Oh Holy Night,” but the song that really got me was Eichelberger’s ode to Psalm 42, “Satisfied in You.” It spoke about how, throughout the tribulations in life, he has been satisfied in his faith and that will guide him on his journey.

Josh Garrels was an enigma of sorts. Wearing a simple jean jacket, beanie, jeans, and boots, he looked like a regular guy from Oregon. He built his own studio behind his house, was a former skateboard kid, and has woven his way through many walks of life. In conversation, Garrels is a thoughtful, deliberate person who has a depth to his points, but you would probably never surmise the man has released eight albums in the last fifteen years, building himself a rich and faithful following.

Garrels brought that unassuming nature to the stage to deliver his tender, Christian influenced, folk music. For this last night of his Christmas tour, he had a great mix of classic and original Christmas songs, along with his regular library.

Garrels’ original Christmas songs were tributes and different perspectives on the Christmas story(ies), his sound more layered than on his other “from scratch” albums. For example, in “The Light Came Down,” lush strings, choral singers, and harp provided the backdrop to a different take on the Nativity story.

His history as a preacher was obvious in the cadence of his voice and his anecdotes between songs when he spoke of how a hero’s journey is different for everyone and can change at any given time. It was a thoughtful departure from everyday banter.

The sound he and his band have cultivated is a mix of acoustic folk and Allman Brothers rock, with a bit of Grateful Dead guitar mixed in. Garrels’ rough voice and falsetto—often compared to Ray LaMontagne—shone through many of his songs, especially “Colors,” a jazz-inspired track that sent a message of how colors, art, and music are the ties that bind in our daily life.

Another standout from the night was “Shepherd’s Song,” a dedication to his son and mothers everywhere. Overall, Garrels’ following is a passionate one and together, they came in spades to enjoy some holiday spirit, campfire stories, and each other.

Review and photos by Phillip Johnson

Josh Garrels and The Sing Team