Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Christian music news: Switchfoot, Relient K deliver at N.J. festival
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FRENCHTOWN, N.J. – Just as virtually everyone in the crowd of perhaps 50,000 over two days at the fifth-annual Revelation Generation Christian music festival on Friday and Saturday knows that the end of the New Testament brings the promised deliverance, the event’s two headline bands also brought a wonderful ending.
But there were other great moments – and disappointments -- among the 50 musical acts on five stages at the 140-acre Revelation Farms.
Festival closer Switchfoot, playing the fest for the first time, definitely had the most rock-star power of all the band, and showed it in a 70-minute set of 13 songs.
Opening with “Stars” – lead singer/frontman Jon Foreman noted that outside on a clear night, it was one of the few times they have performed the song and actually been able to see the stars – they made the set much more than a concert.
By the second song, “Gravity,” Foreman was leading the crowd waving their arms back and forth, as the band’s four guitars stood at the edge of the stage, firing off riffs. On “This is Your Life,” Foreman climbed the stage scaffolding and kneeled at the front off the stage to play the guitar with his teeth. For “Dirty Second Hand,” he took one of drummer Chad Butler’s cymbals and stood at the mic stand banging on it, then spun around with it.
Foreman also jumped off the stage three times: on “Shadow Proves the Sunshine,” on which he called “a song about a new generation rising up to put our differences aside; on ”On Fire,” when he actually played harmonica in the crowd, and on “Awakening,” when he crowd surfed as the who front of the crowd jumped.
Their set was a nice mix: They played “This is Home,” their song from the soundtrack of the movie “The Chronicles of Narnia: Price Caspian”; combined their “Gone” with “Crazy in Love” by Beyonce – “a little-known artist you might not have heard of”; and played a new song, “Mess of Me,” which Foreman said had its basis in the Walt Whitman quote, “Every man dies; not every man truly lives.”
But the band saved the highlight for the end, playing their biggest hits as the final two songs. “Meant to Live” was much harder than on the record, and they ended it with a nice coda of Foreman singing just the drums before the whole band kicked back in. And then the encore of “Dare You to Move,” starting with Foreman walking on stage alone with an acoustic guitar before the band joined him.
Relient K did a wonderfully quirky 75-minute set of 18 songs (including a short song about the TV show “The Office) that started frenetically – 10 songs in the first half hour alone – before closing with an epic, chilling 12-minute version of “Deathbed” just as night fell on the festival.
Between that and the opening “Chapstick, Chapped Lips and Things Like Chemistry,” there were a lot of great moments. Front man Matt Thiessen played both guitar and piano, sometimes virtually at the same time – as on “High of 75” – and sometimes along, as the introspective keys on “Let it All Out.” He also forcefully sang on the title song off their new disc, “Forget and Not Slow Down,” due out Oct. 6. He ran across the stage and got the audience to wave their arms and sing the “Ay Oh” chorus to “Sadie Hawkins Dance.”
But the highlights were “The One I’m Waiting For,” which Thiessen said the band hadn’t played in “a couple of years” and which he ended with a delightfully offhand comment, “that song’s about Katy Perry,” without explaining they dated and wrote songs together when she was a Christian artist known as Katy Hudson.
Also, they covered Cake’s 1994 song “The Distance,” with Thiessen bringing out a trumpet, and used a nice banjo embellishment on “Which to Bury; Us or the Hatchet.” The crowd clapped above their heads for a loud, fast “Devastation and Reform,” and jumped along to a wonderful “Be My Escape.”
Before the finale, Relient K’s most spiritual song was the closeted Christian “The Lining is Silver,” which Thiessen said holds a message for those “who really know what this world is about.”
But “Deathbed” was a tour de force – a sermon on salvation for those who seek it even during a minute of contrition among a wasted life. It sent a spark through the crowd with the first notes of the piano Thiessen played alone on stage. The band kicked in, and for the nearly 12 minutes the song lasted, Thiessen dripped sweat from his long red hair almost as if his soul was pouring out with it. With two trumpets and chimes, and Switchfoot’s Foreman singing the part of Jesus as he does on the recorded version, it was a great end to a great set.
The concert also included an appearance by English band Delerious? On their final U.S. tour, crossover band MercyMe, who played their hit “I Can Only Imagine,” and festival favorite Jars of Clay.
Here are some other highlights:
Switchfoot frontman Jon Foreman, who has recorded several solo CDs, earlier in the day did a solo acoustic set in what was supposed to be an intimate setting in a festival tent. But more than 1,200 people packed the tent to hear Foreman do a 50-minute, 11-song set of songs that fans picked online.
It, too, was filled with great moments: He played harmonica on “Southbound Train” and “Resurrect Me,” on which he also had a guy come up from the audience to continue his guitar part while he did. Foreman then used the harmonica to play slide on the guitar’s neck as the guy strummed the strings. He had told the crowd on “Just Rock Me” that they could clap along – and they did -- but on “Resurrect Me,” they did it spontaneously.”
He also played harpsichord, warning it was “horribly out of tune,” on “Fake Your Own Death.”
But the highlights were a great “Only Hope,” Switchfoot’s breakthrough song from the movie “A Walk to remember,” and the closing “Your Love is Strong” – a quiet, searching and lovely song that Foreman sang with such intensity that his face turned red.
Post-grunge band Flyleaf got probably the second-biggest crowd of the day, and maybe the most enthusiastic, with pumping fists and slam-dancing. The crowd reacted most to the band’s 2007 Top 40 hit, “All Around Me,” and its current single, “Again.”
Singer/frontwoman Lacey Mosley, in a gauzy red dress, screamed out songs like Icelandic singer Bjork, only not as good (!) or screaming like a demon. While her guitarists high-kicked, jumped, lashed their heads and literally rolled on the floor.
It wasn’t clear how all that glorified the Lord. Just saying.
Singer-songwriter Bethany Dillon, 20, who CCM Magazine in 2005 called “the future of contemporary Christian Music,” and who in 2006 had a Top 40 Adult Contemporary hit, “Dreamer,” played an undistinguished set to a crowd about half the size of Foreman’s.
Dillon’s music was pleasant, but most of the songs sounded alike and the lyrics were bland and unremarkable. By far the best was “When You Love Someone,” which owes an awful lot to Bob Seger’s “You’ll Accompany Me.” Dillon sang with conviction, but also struggled to hit the high notes. In a pre-set prayer, she alluded to being “really tired.”
BarlowGirl, a trio of sisters who look much younger than their ages (24 to 29) and whose 2005 song “I Need You to Love Me” holds the record for staying at No. 1 on Christian radio for 13 weeks, mixed it up on their set, alternately sounding like Go-Gos, Dixie Chicks or straight-forward rockers.
They played a good new song, “A Beautiful Ending,” with a military beat and piano flourishes.
One of the nice surprises of the festival was a set by virtuoso bassist Bernard Harris, who played a set of inspirational smooth jazz before just 125 people.
Harris, the musical director for Mandisa – the “American Idol” contestant who has been a smash success in the inspirational music world -- plays plucked bass, and in his hands – played left-handed, with his guitar upside down – it’s a lead guitar.
A moving version of Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature” brought the crowd to a spontaneous hand clap. A version of Eric Clapton’s “Change the World” on which he used a voice box also was stellar. He also played jazzed-up traditional hymns.
He has a new disc, “Soundproof,” due out Oct. 6.
Christian Music News Source