Wednesday, February 6, 2013

No Better Feeling on Earth...

...Than to have your 12-year-old son's last words before going to sleep be "That was awesome, Dad!"

note: I wrote this nearly a year ago, but unintentionally left it unpublished until now. 

Saturday night, I took my three boys and a couple of friends to San Antonio, to go to the Winter Jam concert tour.  I have been a lifelong music junkie - in fact I ran one of the first online magazines for Christian music from the mid-90s until shortly after my oldest sons were born in 2000.  But after my kids were born, my priorities changed, and I have not been to many concerts in the last 12 years.  What a thrill to introduce my kids to the world of live Christian music!

Winter Jam has been going on for 17 years, and is a bit like a travelling music festival.  10 bands played over 5+ hours, with worship, prayer, and even a little magic mixed in, all for $10.  This was by far the best $10 I have ever spent on entertainment and is certain to become an annual tradition for my family.

During the time after the doors opened and before the "proper" concert began, two bands new to the US market entertained.  We As People kicked off the night, but alas I missed much of their set getting my kids situated.  Aussie duo for KING & COUNTRY followed with a very enjoyable set.  They are perhaps best known for the recent radio hit “Busted Heart” but there’s a lot more to them than that one song.  Youth leaders got an extra bonus – a goodie bag that included among other things a free download of their newest album “Crave.”  I have to say they've been growing on me the last few days.

Group 1 Crew ushered in the main show, bringing down the lights to a rendition of “Party Rock Anthem” (aka "Everyday I’m Shuffling"), complete with neon-lined outfits that would have been cool if they had worked more than half the time.  Fortunately the singing was more reliable than the wardrobe.  Building 429 rocked to crowd-pleasers “Where I Belong” and “Listen to the Sound.” Newcomer Dara Maclean did a lively rendition of the radio hits “Free” and “Suitcases.”  During Kari Jobe’s performance of “We Are (the Light of the World)” my son pointed out the absolutely amazing scene of the entire arena sparkling like a starry night, from 9,000 cell phone flash lights.  Cool doesn't even begin to describe it!

Newsong’s Russ Lee emceed the entire event, but was not silent during the singing.  His amazing tenor filled the arena during Newsong’s performance of the power ballad “Arise My Love,” sung while an artist’s portrait of Christ’s face was etched on a 30-foot-square screen through light effects.  That song has always given me the chills, and hearing it performed live was worth the price of admission by itself.  They then sang a new release, “The Same God.”  That song really hit me.  “The same God with you then is with you now.  The same God who led you in will lead you out.   So take all the fear and doubt, go on and lay them down.  The same God, the same God is with you now.”  I needed that reminder!

After a brief intermission, Sanctus Real raised the audio level (as if that were necessary!) another few notches, getting the crowd singing along to “Forgiven,” “I’m Not Alright,” “Lead Me,” and “The Redeemer.”  As much fun as they were, that was nowhere near the highlight of the night.

I've been a fan of Skillet for many years.  As a matter of fact, I wrote about their self-titled debut album way back in 1997 (reprinted in my blog).  This was my first chance to see them live though, and frankly was the reason I went to the Winter Jam (I’ll be returning though, regardless of who headlines next year – the entire night was incredible).  To say they rocked the crowd would be the understatement of the night.  From the introductory rock duet between headbanging violinist Jonathan Chu and cellist Tate Olsen, to the closing strains of “The Last Night,” from onstage pyrotechnics to 20-foot hydraulic lifts and Jen Ledger’s rotating drum platform, the show was everything I expected and more.

Winter Jam 2012 may not have been the best concert I’ve ever attended (I doubt anything can top a small acoustic show with Petra lead John Schlitt back in the early ‘90s), it certainly falls in the top 2 or 3.  If you’re in the Eastern US and have a chance to see the remainder of this tour, take it.  You won’t regret it!

Do you have something to add? A question you'd like answered? Think I'm out of my mind? Join the conversation below, reach out by email at david (at), or hit me up on Twitter at @dnlongen