We only got there an hour early, knowing full well, that the first couple hundred people in line would be those wanting to stand all night. The Cotillion Ballroom is a very old traditional ballroom that hosts a wide range of entertainment from contemporary music concerts to big band to comedy to dance recital competition to private parties. The room is not huge, but holds two thousand people, and is a great place to see live music. The stage is reminiscent of a scaled down Hollywood Bowl, with it's rainbow-shaped enclosure, and the large wood dance floor is well-kept (for serious dancing). Just as I guessed, there were already a couple hundred (mostly young) people staking out their territory; right in front of the stage on the chair-less dance floor. We grabbed seats at the edge of the dance floor, where the tables and chairs started. Going back from the stage/dance floor area, are semi-circles of tables and chairs to the first level step up for more tables and chairs. Even though the attendance was a bit light (I'm told by Cheryl Hurley of Broomtree Productions there were 1,072), they were in a really good mood. We sat and watched the pre-concert festivities, from a half a dozen hacky-sack games (one was pretty serious), to younger kids running around finding their friends. We even saw Rich Mullins settling in for the concert, enjoying his last month in Wichita (look for an upcoming interview on this related topic). This general party mood set the tone for the whole evening, and was reflected later by all the bands.
At 7:00pm sharp, Kathy Sanders and Craig West, the morning crew for Light 99 (KTLI-FM 99.1 Wichita's CCM radio station, and a major blessing in this writer's life) came out and introduced Tony Vincent. Not being familiar with his music, the only thing I know about Tony is what I've read on rec.music.christian, and from what one of our young friends told us, who had recently seen him. I thought he looked and sounded a little like Eric Champion, but our young friend informed us Eric doesn't sound like that anymore, as he is sounding more alternative these days. Is that true? Tony sang for exactly 25 minutes, including his current hit, "Simple Things". I liked his music and his voice, but as usual, were getting anxious to see the Newsboys. I have to say, though, anybody that can get Charlie Peacock and Brent Bourgeois to produce them must be doing something right. Look for Tony in the CCM's March "Faces To Watch" feature.
It wasn't 60 seconds after Tony left the stage, when Audio Adrenaline came out rocking. The crowd went nuts, but we found out later, this was mild in comparison for what was to come. This is the first time I'd seen them live, and it was a fun set to watch. A young friend of ours at the concert, Sarah Crawford, told me that DC Talk's drummer, Will Denton, was filling in on keyboards for Audio Adrenaline. Their regular keyboardist, Bob Herdman's wife had just had a baby and he wanted to stay home with the family. As before, I really believe the mood of the crowd was rubbing off on stage. Except for two songs, all of AA's selections were from their 1993 Forefront album, Don't Censor Me, which is a Dove Award nominee for Rock Album Of The Year. The second song, "What You Need", was from the 1992 self-titled Forefront album, and the second to last song, "Hand In The Hand" (Put your hand in the hand of the man that stilled the water), is a remake of an old song they're considering doing on their next album. They closed with a another Dove Award nominee, "Big House", which has two nominations (Rock Recorded Song Of The Year & Short Form Music Video Of The Year), and had the whole house singing.
Their 35 minute set went as followed... We're A Band
What You Need
Can't Take God Away
My Scum Sweetheart
A.K.A. Public School
Hand In The Hand
Needless to say, there was a lot of jumping and bouncing during AA's set. At one point during their set we (my wife and I) got to visit with Heather and her new boyfriend. Heather used to work for Light 99, but the last time the Newsboys were here this past September fronting Steven Curtis Chapman, she met Phil Urry, the Newsboys' new bass player. They hit it off, and, to make a long story short in her words, things are going "very well". I'm not going to make any assumptions, but they sure make a cute couple. Anyway we got to meet Phil, and one of my first questions was "Do you guys have an Internet address?" He didn't think so, but told me to ask Wes Campbell, the manager/sound man. I had visited briefly with Wes at the September concert, about how impressed I was with the sound, considering they were warm-ups for Steven, and at that time I wasn't aware that he was the manager. So I gave him my card, and told him to let me know when they were ready to get on the 'Net. Also later I asked Heather if there was a new album in the works, and she said they go into the studio in June as soon as the tour ends to start on the next album (presuming a late fall or winter release).
After a brief 20 minute intermission for stage rearrangement, we enthusiastically welcomed Dove Award nominee for Group Of The Year, the Newsboys. In his red suit, John James (leads vocals) led the Boyz in "Truth And Consequences", and the moshing began almost immediately. The pace was fast, and they (especially John) were much more animated than as a warm-up act for Chapman. Everybody was having whole bunches of full-tilt fun, but never got out of control. At one point John asked Peter Furler (composer, producer, drums, and vocals) "What state were we in last night?" Peter says after a brief comical pause, "Uh, Texas." So John proceeds to inform us that we are much louder than Texas. We responded by being even louder. At the risk of sounding cynical, I *would* guess he probably says that at every concert, *if* it weren't for the strong uplifting mood in the house. I guess you could say, "The Holy Spirit was in the house!" (You Texans out there have a chance for rebuttal, as the tour heads back to Texas from here for three more dates.) This was followed with Peter singing one of my favorite autobiographical songs ("Let It Rain") about another Peter (the Apostle). John was suspiciously absent. Could he be... yes he was.. changing into his black suit. He came out while Phil was playing the bass lick to Pink Floyd's "Money", which segued perfectly into "Going Public", another one my favorite songs (who am I kidding, there *all* my favorites for the night). After that John shared a little about Compassion International which led into "Be Still". Even with the reverent mood of the song, the crowd was still passing each other around. John was noticeably tickled by this blatant desire for the athletic-concert-work-outs. Finally on a greatly exaggerated slow version of "Where You Belong / Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus" the crowd grew almost worshipful, and while he had our attention, John shared his heart. There was a brief heartfelt witness, a prayer, an invitation, and an opportunity to get with counselors. Then John continued to encourage us by reminding us that the real faith life consists of a lot more than concerts. He went on to encourage all who may not already be involved, to *get* involved in a church family, and lifted up for special commendation, all Youth Leaders and High School / College students involved school prayer groups. This met with a genuinely hearty thank offering.
I really like it when groups get off the beaten path of recordings, and just jam for awhile. On "Real Good Thing" there was an excellent rhythm jam/solo opportunity for Phil (bass), Jody Davis (guitar), Duncan Phillips (percussion, drums, keys), and another new member, Jeff Ryan (keys). Except once again John had disappeared. Sure enough, here he comes in his silver suit, and, with the massive strobe bank going wild on the back of the stage and the bright-as-aircraft-landing-lights shining on us, they began to "Shine" (which has two Dove Award nominations - Rock Recorded Song Of The Year & Short Form Music Video Of The Year). The energy heightened even more when, immediately following that, John starts proclaiming the first chapter of Romans. Of course, we all knew he was referring to "I'm Not Ashamed". During this song, while standing on a riser above and behind Phil, John squirted water on him, and a brief water fight broke out right in the middle of the song. That brought to an end the official set, but the energy level of the crowd didn't waver one decibel. So they came back for two encores. On a double drum solo during the last song (one which included Peter jamming on the drums with his hands), everyone else slipped off stage. Then here comes John in his "special gold suit" which he says he rarely wears, but we had "been such an incredible audience".
(GP) - Going Public, 1994 Star Song Dove Award nominee for Rock Album Of The Year (Have you been counting? That's a total of 7 Dove Award nominations between AA and the Boyz, and that's not including Newsboys producer Steve Taylor's nominations.)
(NA) - Not Ashamed, 1992 Star Song
Their set went as follows... Truth And Consequences (GP)
Upon This Rock (NA)
Boycott Hell (NA)
Spirit Thing (GP)
I Cannot Get You Out Of My System (NA)
Let It Rain (GP)
Going Public (GP)
Be Still (GP)
Where You Belong / Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus (NA)
Real Good Thing (GP)
I'm Not Ashamed (NA)
Encore Dear Shame (NA)
Lights Out (GP)
When they finally finished at 9:45pm, I only then realized that they had only played for an hour and fifteen minutes, but the amount of praise, party, and power packed in that amount of time made it seem like a lot longer. John caught a theme when he said "It's awful hot in here, but it sure is cool standing up here watching this many people just praising Jesus". We went home, ears ringing, but knowing that this was surely the kind of prayer and praise service to which the Psalmist referred: (Ps 33:1-3) "Sing joyfully to the LORD, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him. Praise the LORD with the harp; make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre. Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy."
Return to the Blackwood Music History Scrapbook