CARTHAGE, Mo. — Thanks to COVID-19, fans can’t travel to see Michael W. Smith perform in concert. So Smith and his friends are hitting the road to play for them instead.
Dubbed the Drive-In Theater Tour Concert Series, it will be the second time Smith, along with fellow musicians Steven Curtis Chapman and Mac Powell, will perform live in front of select audiences. It’s a rarity, given how the pandemic has canceled or postponed numerous musical performances nationwide since early March.
“I had this idea originally, right when the pandemic” took root in America, “where I thought performing at movie theaters would be kind of cool. About that time, (Awakening Events) came to us and made us an offer … and we did 10 shows. They were very successful.”
These weren’t huge concert venue with seats for tens of thousands, however. They were drive-in theaters located in small towns like Watertown, Tennessee; Henderson, North Carolina; and Stephens City, Virginia. In other words, these weren’t places a multiplatinum artist like Smith would normally visit.
But, Smith said, there hasn’t been anything normal about 2020. Based upon that successful 10-city tour in July, the trio’s back at it, set to perform 16 shows at small-town drive-in theaters. Stops include the Sunset Drive-In in Aurora on Sept. 20 and Carthage’s 66 Drive-In Theatre on Sept. 22. Like before, the average population of the towns they’ll be performing at is 18,000 people.
“I love it. I absolutely love it,” Smith said about the drive-in tour. “The (pandemic) forced us into this, so we had to get creative.
“We’ve done arenas, but we’ve really never really done anything like this, and I think it’s been awesome,” Smith continued. “It just feels so fresh … so new. I like little adventures like this.”
This isn’t a taped performance projected on the drive-in’s huge outdoor screen for fans — sitting inside their cars or on lawn chairs beneath the stars — to enjoy. Nor are Smith and the others performing at a remote location with their performance beamed to a specific drive-in.
Nope — Smith and his pals will be in Carthage “in the flesh,” Smith said with a chuckle, “playing live. Everything is live. There’s nothing canned about any of this.”
Some Smith hits that fans at the 66 Drive-in could hear are “Open the Eyes of My Heart,” “Sky Spills Open,” “Places in This World,” “A Million Lights,” “Miracles,” “Great Are You Lord” and “Agnus Dei.”
“We’re all going to be up on stage, singing each other’s songs, just having a blast,” Smith said. Combined, the three musicians have sold 35 million albums, charted 113 No. 1 songs and nabbed 128 Dove Awards.
Smith said the response from fans to this series has been overwhelmingly positive.
“What they’ve been through, being cooped up inside their houses for so long, it’s refreshing for them to get out and hear some live music,” he said.
To see those faces out there in the crowds, most inside their cars, smiling and singing his songs, “the risk is all worth it,” he said.