Pinocchio With A Punch

CCM August 1984

Pinocchio With A Punch

CCM August 1984

by Karen Marie Platt

Daniel Amos
Fox Theater
Redwood City, California

"You're not a real boy, Pinocchio, until you prove yourself brave, truthful, and unselfish..."
- Pinocchio, Disney Productions and introduction to Daniel Amos' "Doppelganger Tour."

Years ago, Daniel Amos (aka D. A.) played southern California country-rock and frequently performed at churches. Now the group plays technopop and this fall will take its dramatic rock show to colleges and theaters across the country.

D. A.'s program combines a cast of assorted mannequins with high-tech production and scenes from old black-and-white 3-D movies. Audiences are asked to ponder a combination of literary references, sundry quotations, and snippets of Scripture accompanied by loud, keyboard based, new wave rock. A special "concert-viewing apparatus" (plastic 3-D glasses) is distributed to entrants prior to the performance. At the door, signs beckon: "Come and Confront Your Double."

D. A. previewed its new production in April during a northern California tour co-produced by Alarma! Records and Brian Martin of Mighty Fortress Productions. The tour continues throughout the summer in conjunction with the release of the band's upcoming album, Vox Humana.

The stage is dark, music begins, and men behind masks sing a robotic refrain: "We are the hollow men..." Their mouths emit an eerie light as images of mannequins hiding behind venetion blinds collide on the screen overhead.

Quotations on the screen, song lyrics, and elaborate stage production exhort us to look beyond face values, to recognize the hollowness of life without Christ, and to confront the necessity of suffering in this fallen world.

Songwriter and lead singer Terry Taylor lifts the hollow men and several other poetic symbols from T. S. Eliot's Four Quartets. He combines these with the literary Ed convention of the "doppelganger," a double or wraith symbolic of the shadowy or dark side of self. Taylor injects them into the '80s youth pop-culture. His new wave mini-treatises- "Mall All Over The World," "The Double," and "Real Girls" -point directly to modern materialism, self-indulgence, and self-insured naivete.

Some of Taylor's tunes are fun and danceable. "New Car" is especially catchy and drives some of the more footloose onto the dance floor in front of the stage. Despite the controversies about dancing and carnality that such scenes stir up, D. A.'s lyrics waft back to the premise that we Christians, as well as pagans, must continue to recognize our sinfulness- the part of us we'd rather not face, the doppelganger.

In concert, however, Taylor's lyrics are brought to life on a movie screen and through various other show-and-tell devices. Bright floodlights bathe the audience at appropriate moments, and laser beams assist in creating unusual, cage-like effects. High-tech graphics, Simmons and Drumulator systems, midi-interfacing, and pre-programed "live" six-track keyboard data add to the show's state-of-the-art appeal. Rob Watson (who also tours with Petra) plays keyboards, and Tim Chandler assumes his double role on bass and lead guitar. McTaggert, drummer, dresses in fashion: he clearly resembles one of the mannequins on screen.

This concert is Disney-esque not just in its usage of the changed nature of Pinocchio as a metaphor for Christian conversion, but also in its frenetic attempts to capture our imaginations. Slides of children enhance the futile yearning for past worldly pleasures in the tune "Memory Lane." "Endless Summer" sentimentalizes and elevates a longing for an earthly paradise. And two new songs - "As The World Turns" and "When Worlds Collide" (both on the upcoming Vox Humana album) - continue Taylor's preoccupation with the sacred versus the mundane and our inadequate responses to that conflict.

D. A. on stage creates an atmosphere and intensity to challenge audiences that have perhaps become bored with conventional concerts. With assistance from Vic Marquis, Dave Hackbarth, and Ken Samuels of 3-D Productions, the program includes an hour and a half of meticulous, technical detail.

Taylor is an actor-musician on stage, and this concert is his morality play. We join him in his living-room-on-stage as he croons hauntingly melodic rock ballads with seeming ennui. His delivery is not unlike David Bowie.

In fact, much of what Taylor and the rest of D. A. create on stage bears striking resemblance in tone and approach to secular artist who regularly take their audience to task for self-indulgence and apathy. But these reprimands, especially on topics like divorce, abortion, genetic engineering, and Third World hunger, seem all the more believable coming from a band of long-time Christians.

Although D. A. is sometimes oblique, its members are as courageous as their secular counterparts. Their musical style and statements have few of the comfortable appointments of compromise. Among the many overhead projections are quotations by Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders and by Gandhi. That D. A. recognizes these voices as speaking truths rarely heard from our pulpits only serves to heighten the difference between Daniel Amos and its ego-caressing pop counterparts. After an hour and a half of overwhelming impressions, I feel as if I've spent my time watching an exacting film by a gifted director. The audience, however, jumps to its feet in a standing ovation of considerable length.

As encores, D. A. offers "Walls Of Doubt" from Alarma! and "Sanctuary," a moving elegy from Vox Humana that seems destined for Christian radio airplay.

As the young audience pours out into the night, familiar strains filter through the theater speakers: "When you wish upon a star/ It makes no difference who you are/ You can make your dreams come true/ It's up to you" - from Pinocchio, Disney Productions.