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Pop : Staying True to Christian Pop

October 10, 1994|STEVE APPLEFORD and * Steven Curtis Chapman plays Saturday at Bren Events Center, UC Irvine, 7 p.m. $17.95-$19.50. (714) 856-5000.

Bars were closed at the Universal Amphitheatre on Saturday, and security was virtually nonexistent--and unnecessary. Which isn't to say this Christian pop concert by Steven Curtis Chapman was a sleepy night out. The singer-songwriter never stopped moving.

Chapman now finds himself at the pinnacle of Christian pop, with a smooth folk-pop sound that lands somewhere between Michael McDonald and Bruce Hornsby. He won a Grammy for his last album, and his newest, "Heaven in the Real World," shipped gold (a half-million in advance orders).

It's a level of success that could point to further crossover into the secular mainstream, though that has as many risks as rewards. (Crossover was good news for Amy Grant, bad for the rockers of Stryper.) At the Amphitheater, the Kentucky-born Chapman seemed in no hurry to head that way, pausing again and again to preach a word or two between songs.

Backed by a tight six-man band, Chapman was a pleasant, upbeat presence, dressed like a frontier preacher in a black three-piece suit. There were many catchy pop hooks throughout the night, and Chapman sang in an earnest tenor, but there's little here to musically challenge himself or his listeners. It was slick pop well-played.

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