The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Newsboys may be the comeback story of Christian rock.
I purposely did not qualify that statement with “of the year” or “of the decade.” Christian pop has never been a genre that completely let faded heroes of the past back into the limelight, and just three years ago, Newsboys looked like it was essentially done.
Back then, it would have been hard to belive Newsboys would be headlining the most successful Winter Jam tour ever, as of last night in Rupp Arena, and they’d be putting on a killer show. But Saturday night, before a crowd of 16,431 paying customers, the resurgent quartet showed off the perfect formula for rebirth.
The key ingredient is new frontman Michael Tait. Here in Central Kentucky, we’ve been able to watch him grow into this role a bit as Newsboys played the Lexington area three times in the last year. But last night, he was perfectly at ease exhorting the crowd, playing every part of the stage and drawing from two iconic bands’ catalogs of hits.
That’s part two of the formula: With Tait, Newsboys credibly performs its own catalog and that of his former band, dc talk. That would make this a greatest hits act if not for the third ingredient, some terrific new material like the title track from the new chart-topper, Born Again. It gives Newsboys a cross-generational appeal they might not have otherwise had.
Mar11Filed under: Ichthus Festival, Music, rc talk - Christian pop culture, Religion, Rupp Arena; Tagged as: Anthony Armstrong, Break Me Down, C.S. Lewis, Chris August, Conan, Faceless, Feed the Machine, Francesca Battistelli, Ichthus Festival, iTunes, Jason Castro, Joe Rickard, KJ-52, Kutless, Michael Barnes, Newsboys, NewSong, Randy Armstrong, reathe Into Me, Red, Rupp Arena, Sidewalk Prophets, Skillet, TBS, the David Crowder Band, Till We Have Faces, Tonight Show With Jay Leno, Until We Have Faces, Winter Jam
In 2006, the band Red released its debut album, hoping someone would listen.
The group wasn’t even on a label at the time, but slowly people tuned in to the hard-rock sounds of the disc, which spawned the hits Breathe Into Me, Break Me Down and a couple of other chart-toppers. The album ended up nominated for the Grammy Award for best rock or rap gospel record.
Five years later, Red doesn’t release albums quietly.
Quickly after the Feb. 1 release of Until We Have Faces, Red was hovering near No. 1 on iTunes’ sales charts, and the band was booked on TBS’s Conan and NBC’s Tonight Show With Jay Leno, national television debuts for the band.
“We can’t even believe the numbers that are coming in,” guitarist Anthony Armstrong said a few days after the album’s release. “Some amazing things are happening.”
For Central Kentucky fans of Red, one of those things is a slot on the Winter Jam tour, which comes to Rupp Arena on March 12. The bill is topped by the resurgent Newsboys, the David Crowder Band, Kutless, Francesca Battistelli, Jason Castro, Chris August, Sidewalk Prophets, KJ-52 and tour hosts NewSong.
But Red is easily the hottest band at the moment on the show, like many other bands successfully crossing the line between mainstream and Christian venues.
“We try to play the same way whether we are playing in a church or a bar,” Armstrong said at last summer’s Ichthus Festival. “We want people who see us to say, ‘Those guys are the same no matter where they play. They’re not putting on an act or trying to hide anything.’”
One thing Red showed very well at Ichthus, where it was the Friday evening main stage opener for Skillet, was that it could play to a huge crowd — sort of like the one it will see in Rupp Arena, where last year’s Winter Jam drew 14,756 fans.
Dec31Filed under: Music, rc talk - Christian pop culture, Religion; Tagged as: Aaron Gillespie, Anberlin, Britt Nicole, Chris August, Disciple, Family Force 5, Fireflight, For Today, Francesca Battistelli, Ichthus Festival, Jason Castro, Josh Garrels, Josh Wilson, KJ-52, Kutless, LeCrae, Living Sacrifice, MikesChair, Newsboys, NewSong, Project 86, Red, Remedy Drive, Rupp Arena, Sidewalk Prophets, Skillet, Sleeping Giant, Superchick, The Almost, the David Crowder Band, The Letter Black, Trip Lee, Winter Jam, Underoath
The new year hasn’t started, but we already can tell Christian music fans about a few things to look forward to in Central Kentucky in 2011.
Chief among them is, of course, the Ichthus Festival, which already has started releasing the lineup for the event, which will be June 15 to 18 in Wilmore.
Some of the new names coming to the main stage include longtime fan favorites Anberlin and newcomers The Letter Black, along with mainstage returns by Family Force 5 and Disciple, who weren’t there last year. There are a number of returns from last year, including Skillet, Superchick, Red and LeCrae, who brought some highly credible hip-hop to the main stage last year.
Christian music has had trouble embracing hip-hop over the years, but this year’s festival will be further evidence that hard rock is having no trouble finding its way in the genre, with heavier acts on the main stage and the growing prominence of the Deep End stage, which will feature acts including Project 86 and The Almost, Aaron Gillespie’s Underoath side project, which has grown into a substantial act in its own right.
Ichthus 2011 will again open on Wednesday night, with a community concert like last year’s Tobymac, Newsboys lineup, and it will include the acoustic Galleria stage. In years past, Ichthus had a grand lineup announcement, but now organizers trickle it out primarily on their Facebook page (Facebook.com/ichthus).
In addition to the acts mentioned above, the lineup thus far includes Jason Castro, Fireflight, Remedy Drive, Mikeschair, Chris August, Sleeping Giant, For Today, Josh Wilson, Josh Garrels, Living Sacrifice, Trip Lee and Britt Nicole.
Tickets for Ichthus 2011 are on sale at Ichthusfestival.org. (If you are reading this Dec. 31, you can still get in on bargain basement rates if you buy before the new year.)
Long before that, when the weather will be more like it is now, Winter Jam will hit Rupp Arena for the fourth straight year. And for the third straight year, it will be a Saturday night. On March 12, the set will feature Newsboys, the David Crowder Band, Red, Kutless, Francesca Battistelli, NewSong, KJ-52, Sidewalk Prophets and Chris August. Newsboys were here last year in their reconstituted lineup featuring Michael Tait, and event hosts NewSong and Francesca Battistelli have been at the Rupp event before. But the rest of the lineup is new to the event, including the Crowder Band, a onetime Ichthus staple whose last big local date was a fall 2009 show at Southland Christian Church.
As in previous years, admission for Winter Jam is $10 and only at the door. For more information, go to Hearitfirst.com/winterjam.
Photos by Rich Copley | LexGo.com
Enjoy our Winter Jam slide show. Mouse over the bottom to get controls. Click on the little comment cloud to the left to activate captions. If you click on a photo, it will take you to a larger version of it at Picasa, and you can click the link at the bottom left for a larger version of the whole show.
It is a safe bet that the vast majority of the 12,396 people who turned out for Winter Jam 2009 at Rupp Arena will be in church Sunday morning. But Saturday night, they were at the biggest party in Christian rock.
Tobymac and the Diverse City Band were in the house and left little doubt as to why with Grammy Awards, Dove Awards and chart topping album sales they are the top act in contemporary Christian music. No one spins praising God and having a good time together the way these guys do, and fortunately, it can’t rain in Rupp.
Toby made reference to the fact that he was rained out at Ichthus last year and promised to give the Bluegrass Winter Jam audience a little extra. The band flipped through some of the hottest hits off Tobymac’s three solo efforts and the Grammy-winning Alive and Transported album including revved up renditions of Boomin’ and Slam that left the band and the audience breathless, needing the break of Lose My Soul.
Winter Jam, which made its second visit to Rupp in as many years is presented by New Song, who opened the evening after Dove Award nominee Francesca Battistelli, with a few of their hits, including Arise My Love. Hawk Nelson made an early appearance with a hyped up set that topped the first half of music.
Then evangelist Tony Nolan took the stage to deliver a message and a high-tech take on the invitation for people to commit to the Christian faith. No walking forward to Just As I Am, Without One Plea here. Winter Jam goers were told to text “Tony” to 38714, and they would receive a text with more information about where to go for information. Winter Jam organizers estimated 2,500 people responded to that invitation Saturday night.
Then, it was back to music, with The Afters burning through several of their hits, including Beautiful Love and MySpace Girl. Finally, Toby came on for a quick exausting set that, after a shower of confetti, sent everyone home in plenty of time to get some sleep before church — even with this being spring forward weekend.
Feb24Filed under: Ichthus Festival, Music, rc talk - Christian pop culture; Tagged as: Chris Tomlin, Delirious, Disciple, Dove Awards, Family Force 5, Fireflight, Francesca Battistelli, Gospel Music Channel, Hawk Nelson, Ichthus Festival, Israel Houghton and New Breed, Justin Lookadoo, Kutless, Natalie Grant, Shane Claiborne, Skillet, Stellar Kart, The Afters, TobyMac
The Ichthus Festival is still working on the overall schedule for its 40th edition, but it has locked in the headliners.
The nighttime pairings bring distinct flavors to each evening. June 11 is very youthful, dancy rock with Family Force 5 and Hawk Nelson. June 12 looks to be rock night with Skillet and Kutless, and then things get worshipful on the closing night with Israel Houghton and New Breed and Delirious. Festival director Jeff James says they plan to make a big deal out of the Delirious set, as it will be the band’s last festival appearance. The groundbreaking worship band is splitting up later this year.
Other bands already announced include Fireflight, Disciple, Stellar Kart, and The Afters. We’ll let you know when acts are added.
Speakers already announced include Justin Lookadoo, whose Saturday talk last year included a skydiver, and Shane Claiborne, a Philadelphia-based minister whose Ordinary Radicals ministry was profiled in a film by the same name, which played at the Kentucky Theatre last year.
If you’re already planning to go, there are just a couple of weeks left before the next ticket price increase, March 14.
Ichthus and Winter Jam: Ichthus is also partnering with Winter Jam, which comes to Rupp Arena March 7, to round up volunteers. According to an Ichthus e-mail, the volunteer period would be from 3:30 p.m. until the end of the evening. If you’re interested, e-mail email@example.com. Winter Jam features TobyMac, Hawk Nelson and others. We had a good interview with Toby that we’ll bring you next week here and in the paper.
Dove nominations: Late last week, the Gospel Music Association announced nominees for the 2009 Dove Awards, and once again, Chris Tomlin leads the pack. His most recent effort, Hello Love, helped him garner seven nominations and further solidifies his place as his generation’s Michael W. Smith. Close behind the Texan are Natalie Grant and newcomer Francesca Battistelli, with five each.
Battistelli, by the way, is on the Winter Jam lineup. She made a big splash last year with I’m Letting Go.
This year, the awards are letting viewers weigh in on two key categories: Artist of the Year and New Artist of the Year. Voting in these categories will begin Feb. 26 and go through the broadcast at 8 p.m. April 23. The fan vote will count as one-third of the overall vote in those categories. Here are those nominees:
- Artist of the Year: Casting Crowns, Steven Curtis Chapman, Fireflight, Marvin Sapp, Third Day, TobyMac, and Chris Tomlin.
- New Artist of the Year: Addison Road, Francesca Battistelli, Fee, Jonathan Nelson, Remedy Drive, Chris Sligh, and Tenth Avenue North.
Once again, the Doves will be carried on the Gospel Music Channel, which is not available in Lexington on Insight cable. It is available on Dish Network at Channel 338. Click here if you’d like to send Insight a notice that you’d like to see GMC added to the lineup. Gospel Music Channel is available on other Central Kentucky cable systems.
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich