Colorado Springs, CO October 14, 1995

by Todd Hafer

CCM Magazine December 1995

"What's a ragamuffin?" a young girl asked a friend before Rich Mullins & the Ragamuffin Band took the stage in Colorado Springs. I think that girl knows the answer now. Fighting off a flu virus, Mullins and friends put on a three-hour clinic on The Essence of Ragamuffinism. The audience learned three important lessons at this, the 25th stop on the 65 city Brother's Keeper tour '95.

1. Ragamuffins aren't obsessed with pomp and fashion.
Mullins performed in a lavender T-Shirt and blue jeans. No shoes. No socks. He casually sipped a can of Diet Coke between songs - often between verses.

Mullins' attire perfectly reflected the modd of the concert. There was no laser shows, no posturing, no hype. Mullins strolled casually to the stage to introduce the opening act Carolyn Arends. Later, he introduced his own set by saying, "Now we're gonna do some music."

2. Ragamuffins share with friends.
In an age when some artists demand - literally - how much of the spotlight should shine on them, Mullins is an anomaly. He graciously shared the stage with Arends and his other special guest, Ashley Cleveland. Both women did opening sets, came back to showcase more of their considerable talents near the end of the show, then joined Mullins for a three-song encore.

Mullins also took time to acknowledge his crack six-piece band and trio of backing vocalists. He didn't roar, "Everybody in the house - let's give it up for Beaker!" but instead talked about his relationships with Beaker and other members of the team.

Mullins urged the audience to share as well - by supporting The Jesus Way project, an International Bible Society effort to provide a culturally relevant version of the scriptures to Native Americans. Only two percent of Native Americans claim to be Christians. Mullins is more than a poster boy for this effort. He's currently living and teaching music on a Navajo reservation.

Appropriately, two Native American dancers, in full ceremonial dress, bopped on stage and through the audience at several points during the evening.

3. Ragamuffins deliver the goods.
Despite it's casualness - or perhaps because of it - the concert itself was first-rate. Mullins, who's now closing in on 40, seems more at ease with his audience than ever before. He sang with confidence and power - despite the flu. He deftly mixed songs from his latest releasem, Brother's Keeper, with classics like "Awesome God," "Creed," "My One Thing," and "Hold Me Jesus."

Mullins invited the audience to participate on many songs, by singing along, shaking their car keys, even dancing. And how this room full of mostly white evangelicals did dance - just like a bunch of mostly white evangelicals. Imagine people standing board-stiff in a windstorm, and you'll get the idea. "You people don't get to dance much, do you?" Mullins noted.

Anyone who's ever attended a Mullins concert knows that hearing the artist's wit and pointed comments is worth the cost of a ticket. And one could make a whole meal out of the sound bites Mullins served on this evening:

  • After forgetting a few lyrics and flubbing an attempt at whistling, Mullins cracked, "People ask, 'How do you deal with ego problems?' I tell them, 'I do concerts.'"

  • Waxing socio-political, he noted, "I used to be a Democrat." "What are you now?" hollered someone in the audience. Mullins didn't even pause: "Now I'm a dissident!" The crowd's laughter turned to cheers when he added, "Governments don't work, but you, you, are the light of the world!"

  • After finishing a reverent yet soul filled "It Is Well," Mullins said emphatically, "Now that is what Christian music is all about."

    Mullins, Cleveland, and Arends closed the show with three hymns, leaving the stage as the audience completed the Doxology. As they praised God, "from Whom all blessings flow," all in the crowd no doubt realized that those blessings can spring from many sources, including an ailing pack of Ragamuffins.