Thursday afternoon, Fireflight lit up the main stage at the Ichthus Festival that was already scorching under 90-degree heat. Lead singer Dawn Michele made the edge of the catwalk her home, and the band, led by guitarist Glenn Drennen, seemed to relish the opportunity to play for the big crowd.
The Florida-based band was showing a maturity in performance and energy that fulfills some of the promise in its 2008 monster hit, Unbreakable. The song still sits near the end of Fireflight’s set, but it wasn’t the carrot to keep you listening that many hit singles turn out to be. This set was engaging in its own right, and it sort of made me forget how disappointed I was in Fireflight’s latest album, Now, which came out earlier this year.
It sounded like a band trying too hard, trying to recapture that dramatic energy of the breakout hit with histrionic – not dramatic – songs and performances. On the other end, there was too much gloss. “It sounds like Christian music,” my teenage daughter said in an assessment that was not meant as a compliment. To my ear, it wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t as authentic or engaging a statement as I was hoping for from a band this far into its career.
It felt like Fireflight lost edge and was starting to sound like the product of a Christian music machine that always seems to like things a little sanitized, even if fans and critics say that’s not what they want.
Thursday, the edge was back. There was an abandon in their performance and urgency in their message that overwhelmed the heat and the crowd to create one of the most bristling moments I saw at Ichthus this year.
It was a direction Fireflight should try to follow the next time they go into the studio, because they do have the makings of a great band.
See more: Photo gallery from Thursday at Ichthus.