The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Not everyone can play an arena. Regular attendees at Rupp Arena concerts have certainly sat through performances by opening acts, sometimes even headliners who were not ready for a cavernous performance space — who it seemed would be more comfy playing for a few hundred people, rather than several thousand.
And it has happened at Winter Jam, the Christian rock tour that visited Rupp for the fifth consecutive year, Saturday night.
But this year, the tour delivered an arena-ready show from the top to the bottom of the bill. Even rootsy Dara Maclean made a complete connection with her voice and the support of a guitarist and cellist, seemingly hung out on a stage in the middle of the arena, ready to be swallowed up by the space.
Winter Jam 2012 was headlined by Christian rock arena masters Skillet, which brought its full arsenal of pyrotechnic, hydraulic gear for the show, including a new lift for drummer Jen Ledger’s kit. Christian rock fans who attend the Ichthus Festival regularly are abundantly familiar with Skillet’s show, which leans almost exclusively on songs from its last two albums, Awake (2009) and Comatose (2006).
Regardless of how often you have seen the show, which is somewhat tweaked every time, it is still a sight to behold, and charismatic frontman John Cooper gets incredible support from the frenetic band of multi-instrumentalist Korey Cooper (his wife), guitarist Seth Morrison and drummer Jen Ledger. You watch them perform and it’s no wonder they’re all so thin.
But they had some energetic competition from old man Peter Furler, 45, the former Newsboys frontman who was back on the Winter Jam tour as a solo act for the first time. Striking out on his own seems to have reinvigorated the Aussie Christian rock icon who swung through a set of his new music including I’m Free and Newsboys classics such as Entertaining Angels with his all-star pick-up band of fellow-former Newsboy Phil Joel on bass, Superchick guitarist Dave Ghazarian and drummer Jeff Irizarry. With none of Skillets rides or explosives, the quartet brought a garage-rock feel to their set, albeit on an arena level.
Kari Jobe looked in no way ready for the big house of Rupp when she stepped onto the stage, but soon the pixie-esque solo artist was creating the most ethereal moment of the evening with Revelation Song, as she repeated the final lyrics and the audience sang them back to her while guitarist Hank Bentley backed it with a distorted echo.
That’s how you fill an arena.
In Lexington, we probably have benefited from getting Winter Jam two-and-a-half months into the tour, when the artists have had plenty of time to warm up on arenas around the nation. The tour has succeeded in large part because of its $10 admission fee that makes it a youth-group leader’s dream to bring kids too. But it never hurts when the artists — rounded out Saturday night by Group 1 Crew, Building 429 and Sanctus Real — are strong enough that the audience feels it got much more than it’s money’s worth.
That doesn’t always happen in arena rock, these days.
Miranda Lambert has postponed her sold-out concert Friday at Rupp Arena in Lexington due to a death in her family. The rescheduled show will be Feb. 26.
Lambert’s father-in-law, Dick Shelton, died Tuesday in Oklahoma, according to a statement from Lambert’s publicist. Shelton was the father of Lambert’s husband, fellow country music star Blake Shelton. His death prompted the cancellation of concerts this weekend in Charlotte and Greensboro, N.C. , as well as Lexington.
“Thank you to the fans for all the support and prayers,” Lambert said in the statement. “This is a really difficult time for our family and the most important thing is being together. Tell your loved ones you love them.”
Tickets purchased for Friday’s sold-out concert will be honored at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 26, according to the release.
A news release cited “overwhelming response” to the show in announcing its extension beyond its originally slated closing date of Jan. 8. According to spokeswoman Sheila Kenny, more than 30,000 people have attended the exhibit, which features dissected human bodies in a variety of forms to provide a better understanding of how the body functions and how people’s actions affect it. The center has provided educational tours of the show as well as public visits.
Tickets are $14 for ages 19 to 59, $12 ages 60 and older and students with IDs, $11 ages 4 to 18, $10 military with ID, and free to ages 3 and younger. Tickets are available at the door or in advance by calling (859) 233-3535 or at Ticketmaster.com.
Exhibit hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. During the holidays, the exhibit is closed Christmas Day and will have normal operating hours on all but New Year’s Eve, when it will be open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Lexington Center directors will announce the next exhibit coming to the Museum and Gallery, which is in the space formerly occupied by the UK Basketball Museum, in mid-January.
Jun3Filed under: Ichthus Festival, Music, rc talk - Christian pop culture, Religion; Tagged as: Anberlin, Britt Nicole, Casting Crowns, Chris Tomlin, Community Day, Hillsong United, Ichthus Festival, Mark Vermilion, Matthew West, Night of Worship, Phil Keaggy, Quest Community Church, Questapalooza, Rupp Arena, Switchfoot, The Almost, the Newsboys, TobyMac, wilmore, Winter Jam
The Ichthus Festival is focusing on a new market: Central Kentucky.
During the past four decades, the Wilmore Christian pop music festival has drawn fans from all over the Eastern United States and even farther away.
Ichthus CEO Mark Vermilion points to the festival’s heyday 10 years ago, when entire sections of the camping area would be made up of people from Michigan. Now, just a handful of the event’s more than 10,000 patrons are from the Great Lake State.
And the same is true of Georgia, Illinois, Virginia and other areas more than half a day’s drive from Wilmore.
“Our market has shrunk to a 200-, maximum 250-mile radius of Wilmore,” Vermilion said.
Two big factors contribute to that.
First, there’s everyone’s favorite headline: gas prices. If you think your SUV can drink up the fuel, wait until you try filling up a church van.
Also, the number of festivals and similar opportunities to see Christian bands has increased, so audiences are finding they don’t have to travel as far to see favorite bands. Even in Central Kentucky, where Ichthus used to be the sole annual Christian music event, other attractions such as two one-day festivals in Lexington — September’s Questapalooza at Quest Community Church and March’s Winter Jam at Rupp Arena — have given music fans other opportunities to see many of the same acts.
And in some ways, while there is still free camping on site and four straight days of rock at Ichthus Farm, the event is marketing itself to locals as an attraction similar to those one-nighters.
It started last year with a festival-opening “Community Night” featuring chart-topping artists TobyMac and the Newsboys. This year, Ichthus is offering two days geared toward locals. The festival will open June 15 with a Night of Worship featuring praise superstars Hillsong United. Three days later, it will close with Community Day, letting single-day attendees access the festival for a discounted price.
Both days are $25 each, if tickets are purchased by June 10, or a Night of Worship/Community Day package is $40.
“There will always be people who want to come for the full three- and four-day experience, and we believe that’s where real community happens,” Vermilion said. “But we also want the people from Central Kentucky to look at Community Day and say, ‘That’s my day.’”
The David Crowder Band has announced it is working on its last record and will play its last tour in the fall.
A characteristically geeky statement on the band’s website explains that the group always had a six album plan when it started recording in 2000, and it is currently working on album number six, called Mass – the word both describes what it will be musically and alludes to the term in physics, which alert fans know has been part of the band’s oeuvre.
“The problem, or the beauty, is that we’ve never been able to see past album 6,” the statement says. It continued that band members had discussed what would be next for them – including going back to school or concentrating on writing and, “the decision was reached that this sixth album would be our last. None of us is sure what’s next, but we’re not afraid. We’re, in fact, really, really excited! And we’re sure that music will play a role in the future for most, if not all, of us, since, well, we wouldn’t know how to not have it a part of our lives.”
It is a decision that will bring to an end one of the more eclectic careers in Christian music, with Crowder helping to redefine praise and worship music from sources as diverse as banjos and fiddles to keytars and Guitar Hero controllers. Along the way, the group has added numerous classics to the contemporary Christian music songbook including Foreverandever, etc. and Here is Our King.
The band’s last area date was March 13 at Rupp Arena as part of the Winter Jam tour. Kentucky is not currently on the itinerary for the group’s 7 Tour which starts Sept. 29 in Austin, Texas. They will play a youth conference at Louisville’s KFC Yum! Center July 9 and the 7 tour stops in Cincinnati Oct. 27.
Mar19Filed under: album review, Country music, Music, rc talk - Christian pop culture, Religion, Reviews; Tagged as: A Mother’s Prayer, All Time Gospel Favorites, Butcher Holler, Clinch Mountain Boys, Come All Ye Tenderhearted, David Crowder Band, Glenn Donnellan, Loretta Lynn, National Symphony Orchestra, Ralph Stanley, Rupp Arena, West Liberty, Winter Jam
Toward the end of its Winter Jam set last Saturday night at Rupp Arena, the David Crowder Band treated us to a little bluegrass. As he has done on his last few visits to Kentucky, guitarist Jack Parker strapped on his banjo, and Crowder led the 16,431 people in the crowd on a stomping sing-along of I Saw the Light.
The roots of that performance run all the way back to Butcher Holler, home of a singer named Loretta Lynn. In a 2006 interview with the Herald-Leader, Crowder recalled seeing Lynn perform another gospel tune on the farm-themed satellite channel RFD Network, which he and the rest of the band were watching on their tour bus.
“Loretta Lynn happens to be on this one show, and she just rips into this one song, Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven,” Crowder said, “and we’re like, ‘Oh my. … She just can sing,’ and you feel it, she means it. Her execution of that lyric was fantastic.”
Crowder’s performance was just the latest of several experiences illustrating how closely faith is tied to traditional and country music.
Two recent albums brought that home for me, particularly the arrival of Ralph Stanley’s A Mother’s Prayer, which is coming out April 19.
The album centers around Come All Ye Tenderhearted, a song that Stanley and his brother composed. It was based on a ballad about a 19th-century woman from Carter County who lost both of her infant children in a house fire.
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.
Mar7Filed under: Arts administration, Central Kentucky Arts News, Classical Music, Country music, dance, Lexington Opera House, Music, Musicals, Rupp Arena, Singletary Center for the Arts, Theater; Tagged as: Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, Garth Brooks, Itzhak Perlman, Jason Aldean, Lexington Opera House, Luanne Frankin, rain, Rascal Flatts, Rupp Arena, sellout, Singletary Center for the Arts, sold out, University of Kentucky basketball
Last week at le blog and in Sunday’s Herald-Leader, I wrote about the recent wave of sellouts at Lexington venues, including three shows over the weekend – Jason Aldean at Rupp Arena, Itzhak Perlman at the Singletary Center, and the Beatles show Rain at the Lexington Opera House.
That raised some questions in a couple different ways, in part because empty seats were spotted at some shows we mentioned, and because of disparities in the numbers of patrons at “sold out” shows, particularly in Rupp Arena.
So what constitutes a sell out, and does it necessarily mean absolutely no seats are left?
In the case of Perlman, it did mean all tickets were gone, but generally the answer depends on a number of things.
Obviously, the first reason why we sometimes see empty seats at sold out shows is people don’t show up. Yes, it seems bizarre that someone would pay significant money to see a show and then not attend, but it happens for a variety of reasons.
Second is that sellout does not necessarily mean every seat has been sold. Read the rest of this entry »
Mar3Filed under: Arts administration, Central Kentucky Arts News, Classical Music, Country music, Current Affairs, Lexington Opera House, Music, Musicals, Norton Center for the Arts, Opera, Rupp Arena, Singletary Center for the Arts, Theater; Tagged as: 42nd Street, Carl Hall, Cats, Chris Isaak, Emmylou Harris, Gustavo Dudamel, Itzhak Perlman, Jason Aldean, Kathy Griffin, Lexington Opera House, Luanne Franklin, Michael Grice, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, Norton Center for the Arts, Porgy and Bess, Rascal Flatts, Rupp Arena, Singletary Center for the Arts, Steve Martin, University of Kentucky Opera Theatre, University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra, Vienna Philharmonic
The afternoon of Feb. 6, I was standing in line at the Singletary Center for the Arts box office behind a handsomely dressed couple that looked like they had just come from church to see the final performance of the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre’s production of Porgy and Bess.
When it was their turn to be served, the man held out his credit card, and the ticket agent said, “I’m sorry. This performance is sold out.”Metropolitan Opera soprano Angela Brown as Bess in the sold-out Feb. 6 performance of the UK Opera Theatre production of “Porgy and Bess.” Photo by Tim Collins for UK Opera Theatre.
That’s become a more common occurrence at Lexington-area shows recently. Just this weekend, Rupp Arena presents a sold-out performance by country star Jason Aldean Friday night, the Lexington Opera House hosts two sold-out performances by theBeatles tribute show Rain and Saturday night’s concert by violin legend Itzhak Perlman and the University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra is so sold out even people who know people couldn’t get tickets.
This follows recent sold-out or near sold-out shows at those venues by artists such as pop star Chris Isaak, comedian Kathy Griffin, the touring production of Spamalot! and country stars Rascal Flatts, Rupp’s first non-UK basketball sell-out of 2011.
So, is the sell out back? Is a recovering economy starting to show up at the box office?
Well yes and no, venue directors say.
Yes, things do seem to be better than they were in the depths of the great recession in 2008 and ‘09. They also see other factors from a string of very popular acts to a pure desire on consumers’ parts to go have fun to ticket prices coming back to earth.
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