The Gray Havens, husband and wife duo Dave and Licia Radford, charmed Covenant students with their winning personalities and self-described “narrative folk-pop” on Tuesday, September 27 as part of the Francis Schaeffer Conference on True Spirituality.
“Dave likes to write stories,” said the couple when explaining the “narrative” aspect of their lyrics. “And we love the power that story has.”
The Gray Havens first played as a duo in chapel and then played a longer concert with a bigger band in the evening. Their chapel performance was a low-key affair: a stripped-down, smaller-scale version of their sound, with far fewer instruments. Dave and Licia themselves were appealing to the audience, with loving glances to each other and casual interactions with the audience. Afterwards, I heard several girls in the audience say, “I want to be Licia when I grow up!”
Singer-songwriter Ryan Corn opened the evening concert. A worship pastor, Corn’s lyrics exhibit a Christian sensibility. He played several songs from his newest project, The Pressure: Bootleg EP, only available in hard copy. Corn clearly cares about the lyrics he writes; he said that “Enemy” was inspired by and will be featured in the upcoming film I'm Not Ashamed, a drama about Rachel Scott, the first student killed in the 1999 Columbine High School shooting.
“Very First Time” is celebratory: “Now there’s a joy/ Some kind of joy that lives inside of me.” His music features catchy beats and a wide vocal range—Corn hits the high notes with ease. Though in this performance he accompanied himself only with electric guitar and minimal percussion, it didn’t detract from the fullness of his sound.
The Gray Havens then took the stage with three back up band members and nine Covenant strings players playing violin, cello, and viola. Their stop at Covenant is part of a tour of Christian colleges where they incorporate the music department from each college. The band played the entirety of their newest album Ghost of a King, plus a few older songs. The show’s effects like colored lighting and a smoke machine evoked the “creepy-epic” vibe that Dave jokingly described in chapel.
Within the narrative folk-pop label, Gray Havens presents a lot of variety. “Ghost of a King,” the title track of The Gray Havens’s newest album, has a haunting and ethereal sound, whereas “Stole My Fame (To Grace)” is one of the more bouncy, pop-like songs with a toe-tapping rhythm.
The Gray Havens takes its name from the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but their lyrics are also reminiscent of C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia in that they tell biblical stories without explicitly using the name of Jesus. “Train Station” particularly exemplifies this, presenting the story of a train conductor who shouts, “I’ll buy your tickets and I’ll pay your fees,” who is nailed to the tracks “so he’ll never come back” but comes back anyway.
The show was a insightful introduction to the Gray Havens’ music, particularly with of the inclusion of the friends and classmates who played the strings.