At one point during his performance at Lisner Auditorium Sunday night, Jesse Dixon must have felt a little like Job.Nothing was going right. Every time he picked up a microphone, Dixon was greeted by a sputter or a pop and the problem almost put an early end to an otherwise exhilarating night of gospel music.
Unfortunately, only a few hundred people were on hand to hear Dixon and some exceptionally talented local groups perform a variety of inspirational material. Contemporary gospel singers are more likely to lean on pop arrangements than to break a sweat delivering long-winded testimony, a fact borne out by the young singers who opened the show.
The Last Prophecy, a fine gospel trio, substituted soulful falsetto harmonies for traditional ear-splitting shouts; the Galilee Baptist Church Choir featured outstanding ensemble work and Barbara Evans' remarkable vocal range.
As for Dixon, it is to his immense credit that he salvaged what might have been an artistic writeoff. Backed by Elsa Harris on piano and harmonies, Dixon's warm baritone finally prevailed. The technical problems behind him, he slowly brought his performance to a stirring close with "He Ain't Heavy" and "Amazing Grace." For its part, the crowd sounded two or three times its actual size throughout the evening.