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Carman shows he still has it

Carman was hot stuff in the early '90s.

The imaginative musician didn't even need a last name. He sold millions of albums and shattered Christian concert attendance records. Carman's music was corny and his dance moves were stuck in the '70s, but his velvet tenor sound and dark good looks made us love him anyway.

By 1996, the love affair with the handsome Italian-American recording artist had waned considerably. Cool Christian teens listened to the rugged sounds of D.C. Talk and Audio Adrenaline.

No one noticed when Carman retreated to Los Angeles, Calif., in 1998. Since then, he's been working on his first feature film role, that of a washed up prize-fighter in the boxing flick "The Champion," which opens in theaters March 2.

Carman decided to promote his new film by releasing a greatest hits album, The Heart of a Champion, and staging a come back tour.

Carman's "Heart of a Champion" tour packed Albuquerque's Tingley Coliseum Thursday, and excited fans spent plenty of time in line to gain admission to the free concert. Their patience was rewarded. The old Carman magic is back.

His songs are as cheesy as ever, but he puts on one slick show. Energetic dancers pepped up the performance with smooth, well-timed numbers. The band had phenomenal rhythm and didn't miss a beat. Carman, ever the consummate showman, pulled out all the stops with a high-energy performance that drew the crowd into every song.

The audience was on its feet all night long, chanting "I love Jesus, yes I do" and singing along with old Carman favorites such as "Great God" and "Revive Us, O Lord." Even my too-cool teenage brother got into the Sunday school-ish, "No Way, We Are Not Ashamed." It was the most fun this old Carman fan has had in weeks. I was only disappointed that some Carman classics, including "Lazarus, Come Forth" and "Addicted to Jesus," were strangely absent.

If you don't like preaching, Jesus or kitsch, you simply won't like Carman. But if you don't mind a little corn with your gospel, Carman is the man. His tour heads to the Pan American Center in Las Cruces on March 13 for his next New Mexico appearance. General admission is free, and $10 reserved tickets can be purchased at all Ticketmaster locations.

As for me, I'm off to buy Carman's new record.

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