Audrey Assad delivers stirring performance filled with raw emotion

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PROVIDENCE — Mixing brutal honesty and vulnerability with soothing and uplifting praise music, Audrey Assad enthralled her audience at the McVinney Auditorium.

“Lord, I need You. Oh, I need You. Every hour I need You,” Assad, a recording artist, songwriter and contemporary Christian music artist, sang during her Sept. 25 performance, which was her only New England appearance this year.

The daughter of a Syrian refugee who has battled depression and pornography addiction, Assad, 35, bared her soul in between songs from her new album, entitled “Evergreen,” and her earlier well-known hits such as “Good to Me” and “Lead Me On.”

In an emotional rendition of “Lord I Need You,” a song written by friend and fellow Catholic musician Matt Maher, Assad had her audience singing along to the lyrics and waving their arms in praise.

“My one defense, my righteousness…. Oh God, how I need You,” sang Assad, who also recounted the story of meeting Maher and “trying to act cool” when the songwriter performed “Lord I Need You” for her on his piano.

“What do you think?” Maher asked her. Her cool facade quickly melted, and Assad said she had tears running down her cheeks.

Breaking through fears and rediscovering joy is a daily exercise, said Assad, who unflinchingly shared her struggles with mental health and anxiety, which helped her to build a rapport with the audience.

As she confessed her insecurities and pre-concert jitters that still forces her to call a loved one for support, Assad at one point joked to her audience, saying, “And there you, pretending you’re the big old Fort Knox of togetherness.”

That combination of self-deprecating humor, raw honesty and playful banter endeared her to many of those who came out for the evening concert.

“And I shall not want… When I taste your goodness, I shall not want,” Assad sang from one of her other hit tunes.

Nominated for multiple Dove Awards and having received the iTunes Christian Breakthrough Album of the Year award, Assad’s released her latest album after a five-year hiatus from the recording studio in which her faith was challenged, and deepened.

The matured faith perspective translates into a lineup of songs that, rather than enjoying comfort in certitudes, communicates wonder, mystery and a distinct openness to the Holy Spirit. Relevant Magazine had said Evergreen “chips away at bad ideas about God” while CCM Magazine credited Assad’s album for mixing “courage, vulnerability and hope in her poetic lyricism.”

“I cannot do this any other way — I must show up as the real me, or not at all. So there will be little filter on how I express the real suffering and joy of life that I have experienced,” Assad said in a previous interview with The Rhode Island Catholic.

In one of the night’s most-moving performances, Assad led her audience through “Lead Me On,” which puts the words of Psalm 23 to music.

“I will dwell in your house forever,” sang Assad, who at the concert’s end walked off the stage as the audience continued to sing. Assad explained to those gathered that she does not do encores because each performance is like a prayer.

After the concert, Assad took to Twitter to express appreciation for her Ocean State audience.

“Wow I love you Rhode Island!” wrote Assad, who added: “The accents!”