There is probably more video footage of Third Day out on the market than any other band in Christian rock.
The guys popped out one of the first really noteworthy Christian concert DVDs back in 2001 with Third Day Live: The Offerings Experience, and the band has offered numerous DVDs since, including the video accompaniments to the their 2007 two-disc greatest hits package. If this were just a bunch of concert videos, it could get a bit stale. What has made the band’s videos fresh is they are not “just concert videos,” and we don’t get the same things twice.
That is true on the band’s latest DVD Live Revelations, which comes packaged with a concise live CD, including several concert versions of songs from last year’s Revelation album and a cover of U2 and B.B. King’s When Love Comes to Town, performed by Third Day, Jars of Clay, Switchfoot and Robert Randolph.
The footage for the DVD was shot during a Southeastern swing of the Music Builds tour with that mind-blowing quartet of acts, though the focus is squarely on the quartet of musicians who make up Third Day.
Yes, there is concert footage, and if you set this DVD next to that 2001 effort, you’d say, they’ve come a long way, baby. That first disc was great, but it was a few fairly static cameras, including one set behind David Carr’s drumkit that kind of bounced to the beat. This footage is sharp, sweeping and up-close, like an early shot from the foot of the stage of guitarist Mark Lee and bassist Tai Anderson jamming. It’s great concert videography.
But the two things you will remember about Live Revelations are the trip home to the band’s home in Atlanta and the trip to Houston after the devastation of Hurricane Ike, last Fall. The Atlanta footage is striking in how its takes the guys out of the spotlight and really puts them at home with their families. Driving from the tour bus to see his family, Carr talks to his wife in a disjointed cell phone call trying to figure out if he should head home or to his kid’s soccer game. We see Lee at the park with his children and feeding his eight-week-old daughter a bottle.
They are scenes any overworked mom or dad who’s come home from work not to a hug but an equally overworked spouse holding out the baby and saying, “take this,” could appreciate. And you appreciate that these wives are left at home alone for days and weeks at a time while their rock-star husbands are on the road. It takes a little effort to feel sorry for rock stars, but Jonathan and Andrew Erwin’s homecoming footage definitely stirs up some empathy.
The Erwin Brothers also capture some of the intent of the tour, and the fact the band considers its work a ministry, following the musicians as well as their tour mates to a Habitat for Humanity build in Nashville and then through the struggle to figure out how to handle that theme in devastated Houston. We see a conversation between Carr and Switchfoot frontman Jon Foreman as they discuss how its hard to tell someone who just lost their home they need to go build homes for other people. That story comes back into the arena as the concert is dubbed Music Rebuilds, with all proceeds going to rebuilding efforts, and frontman Mac Powell sings the Hurricane Katrina anthem Cry Out to Jesus for America’s latest natural disaster victims.
It’s all a lot more extra-musical emotion than you’d ever expect from a concert video, and there are also insights into a band struggling to figure out how to present its newest music on tour.
Yes, there is also some levity and great music, so don’t avoid this thinking it’s a video of lamentations. But it is also an insightful documentary. When The Offerings Experience came out, Third Day was still a band on the rise, not yet established at the upper echelon of Christian rock. Now, they are there, and Live Revelations unveils the artistry, skill and sacrifices it took to get there.
Note: This being Good Friday, I should mention there is a wonderful rendition of Thief, the band’s great account of the crucifixion of Jesus told from the point of view of the thief who declared faith in Christ while dying next to him, on the DVD. I also always think of Jars of Clay’s Liquid as a great Easter-time Christian rock song.