Pastor Paul Adefarasin of House on the Rock church led The Experience, and Lagos, Nigeria certainly shook the night of December 4. Lasting from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., the fourth annual interdenominational gospel concert drew over 450,000 people. Local guitarist and minister Will McFarlane traveled over the Atlantic to be one of the many. McFarlane has spent the past decade in the area, but he spent years before backing up Bonnie Raitt and as part of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section.
Even with his solid résumé, McFarlane was surprised to be invited to the concert. “They called me out of nowhere, just a week in advance. I drove to Washington, D.C, to get my visa in a day, which was a miracle in itself.” He was recruited into a band that was half Nigerian and half American, including the likes of Phil Driscoll and Chester Thompson. With a little bit of time to practice, the group tackled the stage for an hour, starting around 1 in the morning. “The approach in Nigeria was just grab a hold and hang on. [laughter]” So what's it like to play in front of almost half a million people? “It changes your body chemistry. [laughter] I mean, you could only see about the first quarter of a million. People were jumping and moving. It was just unbelievable.”
Back in the States, McFarlane is still playing gospel, though he generally does more R&B for a jumping night on the town. And while the styles are different, “The human condition has pain, and the human condition has misunderstanding. If you identify it well through song, everybody feels that, 'Yeah, I'm in there somewhere, too.' Sometimes the best ministry is just realizing you're not crazy. Other people have felt the same way.” Whether he performs gospel or not, McFarlane ministers with his guitar and backing band on Friday, Jan. 15, at Papa Mojo's in Durham. Tickets are $10.