Creation Festival The Tour: Jars Of Clay, Thousand Foot Krutch, Audio Unplugged, B.Reith, This Beautiful Republic, FM Static|
10/15/09, at Calvary Church in Lancaster, PA
Last year, the massive Christian music festival Creation took its music event national with its first Fall "Creation
Festival - The Tour." With Kutless headlining, and featuring artists like Fireflight, KJ-52, Esterlyn, and Worth Dying For,
the tour expanded Creation's territory nationwide. And with its second annual run being this year, the tour upgrades its headliner
to industry veterans Jars Of Clay, and features such rock talents as Thousand Foot Krutch, This Beautiful Republic, and
FM Static, while debuting hip hop/R&B artist B.Reith and featuring the touring musical ministry of Audio Unplugged - which
discusses the successes and failures of two founding members of Audio Adrenaline.
On a rainy (and in some places snowy) day in October, Calvary Church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania brought the tour close
to home for the Creation Festival. Surprisingly, the turnout this evening was rather modest, but considering the show wasn't
scheduled to start until 7:30pm on a school night, I suppose I can understand why.
While the church sanctuary was still filling up, Tooth & Nail pop punk act FM Static opened up the night with a short
set. The house lights remained on during their set, and most of the audience remained seated. It was so laid back that
it even seemed to catch the band off guard a bit in the process. But it was good to finally see FM Static live. Three of the performing
members are also in Thousand Foot Krutch, so it made sense to put them on first to give them a couple-hour break before
performing again in TFK. The foursome opened with "A Boy Moves To A New Town With An Optimistic Outlook," and as front man
Trevor McNevan tried to pump up the crowd, monitors behind the band and on either sides of the stage displayed
the illustrated music video for the song. "The Unavoidable Battle Of Feeling On The Outside," also from the new
album, Dear Diary, was next, before the band broke into a worship cover song with "Bleeding Love." It seemed a little
odd for them to make one of the five songs in their short set a cover, but it made for a nice worshipful moment
during their show. The only older track to be played, "Definitely Maybe," from their debut What Are You Waiting For?
was next, before the band closed with the single from their latest record, "Take Me As I am." They were a great warm-up act,
it's just a shame the audience was a little unresponsive.
At this point, B.Reith came out to emcee and make some announcements. Considering that FM Static served more
as a pre-show band than the official start of the night, this segment felt more like the introduction. Pastor Harry Thomas,
a familiar Creation Festival face, came out to lead the audience in prayer, and then the night's first official act
was announced. With that, Forefront Records rock band This Beautiful Republic emerged with their aggressive rock show.
The audience was invited to come forward, and the lights finally went out. NOW it felt like a rock show. The Ohio natives
opened with "Surrender Saved My Life" from their latest record, Perceptions. While the band's recordings are edgy,
there's still a pop flavor mixed in. But at their live shows, This Beautiful Republic makes no bones about being a hard
rock band, and the energy on stage is undeniable. "My God" was next, followed by the more mellow "For The Life Of Me,"
giving anyone not a fan of hard rock present a chance to catch their breath. To close their set, TBR then concluded with "Going Under"
and the begging-for-crowd-participation rocker, "No Turning Back." It was a great live set and a good match for the
diverse artists of the night.
B.Reith then came back out - this time for his own live performance. Before beginning, a video was shown on the screens
around the stage of TobyMac introducing B. It seemed a little odd he needed any kind of endorsement, especially since
his live show - especially with his strong vocal abilities - speaks for itself. With the assistance of DJ Promote on the turntable,
Brian opened with "Comeback Kid," moving swiftly around the stage to interact with the audience. B.Reith spoke about the struggles
he's had with people trying to tell him to choose either hip hop or R&B, not both, and after performing the encouraging
"Mess," he played "Old School," in which spoke out about his dilemma. He then closed with the fun and funky "Go On" before ending
his short but satisfying set.
At Creation East this past June, I had the pleasure of seeing Audio Unplugged (AKA "AA Talks") at a special
late night performance. They were given about an hour for their set, and
much to my surprise, they had about that much time on the Creation Tour -- the kind of time slot a main headliner would get.
However, Audio Unplugged is a "show" unlike most you'd experience. Their performance mixes live music and speaking for what
becomes a lesson in Audio Adrenaline history as well as testimony-sharing and ultimately a concert as well. This kind of show
fulfills the need for a speaker on the Creation Tour, and it probably is more effective, too, then just your usual
20 to 30 minute speaking spot. For this version
of the Audio Unplugged show, the band had more lights and production than their Creation East slot and the overall presentation was just
a bit more refined, although it was just as strong the first time I saw it as it was this time with a little extra production. Although
it's called "Audio Unplugged," Mark Stuart and Will McGinniss, formerly of Audio Adrenaline, are accompanied by a full plugged-in band
to back them up. Former Seven Day Jesus (and the band Matthew) singer Brian McSweeney returns as guitar and background vocal
support while the guys also feature a pianist/lead vocalist, a female vocal accompaniment (who wasn't at the summer stint),
and drums. The closest thing to their set being "unplugged" was the fact that everyone remained seated on stools, but
that's nothing to complain about. It just was a more laid back performance. Their AudioA song selection remained
virtually the same, with the band opening with "Get Down." Stuart then introduced the next track, performing "Never Gonna
Be As Big As Jesus" before stopping to talk about the band's history and how Mark and Will got started in music. "Big House"
inevitably followed, and then Mark shared about a period of time in the band when he was really going through a tough time,
and then moved into "Ocean Floor," from their album Lift. Stuart seemed to be providing more vocals than he did
over the summer, and his voice was still showing the wear and tear from over the years -- but it was just so good to hear
him singing these songs again. The guys let their band support alternate verses to help Stuart with the singing, which
also gave the whole set less of an "AudioA" feel (which is probably good since this isn't the full band). Still, hearing
songs like "Never Gonna Be As Big As Jesus" again, and even "Ocean Floor" which they played until their final show,
is an incredible treat. Afterwards, Will began talking about the day Mark approached him to tell him his marriage was
failing and was virtually over, and then turned the reigns over to Stuart who emotionally shared from his own personal
experience about the painful time. He talked about his feelings of failure and the incredible story of how God used
AudioA's own song "Good Life" one lonely and depressing morning to encourage the Audio Adrenaline frontman - who had
written it years earlier for a friend who had gone through a divorce. They then performed "Good Life" with verses of "God Is So Good"
before drifting into a time of worship with Matt Redman's "Never Let Go." The guys then announced their new project
"Know Hope" that will be a collaborative effort through Integrity Music and performed a new song entitled "Jealous God."
The song was entirely sung by the band's live piano player, which gave the track a bit more of a standard worship flavor
(instead of Stuart's characteristic vocals). Afterwards, Mark and Will shared about the Hands and Feet Project and the miraculous
story of a baby that had been rescued from an outhouse and taken home to the Hands and Feet orphanage. With that, the
band then closed with the AudioA song "Hands and Feet" to bring their standout performance to a finish.
A set change followed and before long, Trevor McNevan emerged on stage once again, this time dressed in all black
with gold trim and Welcome To The Masquerade flame masks printed on his jacket. He waved a large flag with the
logo imprinted on it as "The Invitation" played in the background. Thousand Foot Krutch then collectively burst into
the title track from their new album, Welcome To The Masquerade, jumpstarting what would ultimately be an incredible
rock show. Quite smartly, they continued with the anthemic "Move," but then were struck with a few pesky technical issues
while trying to play some samples before their next track "Bring Me To Life." McNevan did his best to stall, and then the
show was back in full-swing... of course until it happened again before they performed "Absolute" next. From then on, however,
the show ran smoothly for TFK, and the title track from their previous album, "The Flame In All Of Us" was next, followed
by the 9-11 inspired "What Do We Know?" and the wonderfully catchy "Forward Motion" from Masquerade. The light rock
single was then followed up by one of the band's fan favorites, "Rawkfist," and then continued with one strong rocker
after another with "Fire It Up," "Falls Apart," and ended with "Puppet" from their debut. It was easily the strongest
live set I've heard from the band (although they probably could have done without "Puppet"), and the best live TFK shown
I've seen to date.
I was shocked that it was about 10:15pm after TFK had exited the stage and there was still a set change taking place.
Once the stage was cleared and Jars Of Clay's drums and keys riser was in place (featuring a nice
Long Fall Back To Earth themed design), the pop rock quartet emerged to
the sounds of the rocker, "Work." It's always a fantastic song for them to open with, and having to follow-up
a hard rock set like Thousand Foot Krutch in concert, it only seems to make sense for them to amp their set up a
little more. And amp it up they did. "Weapons" (sans the beautiful piano intro of "The Long Fall" unfortunately) kept their
set upbeat, before they tossed quite the nugget to their audience. An update of the opening track "Liquid" from their
1995 self-titled debut was a fantastic surprise. The song was given a similar update as their 2008 renditions of
"Flood" and "Love Song," and it fit in great with the set. The pop love song "Closer" was next, preceding
their update of "Love Song For A Savior." A Jars Of Clay show is unmistakably laid back -- especially when you stack
it up against a show like Thousand Foot Krutch's -- and it's always a treat watching such great guitarists as
Matt Odmark and Stephen Mason at work on stage. And with their set list leaning more towards pop rock and rock,
it gives the guitarists a chance to get into their playing even more. So it was fun to see Matt and Steve occasionally
hop onto a platform for a solo now and then. Their single "Heaven" was next, always a nice addition to their show,
and was followed by "Dead Man" from Good Monsters, the delightfully dancey "Don't Stop," and the update of their most recognizable song, "Flood."
The guys then exited the stage to soon return for their radio hit "Two Hands" as an encore. After it, the foursome's drum and bass
accompaniment left the stage allowing for a wonderful acoustic rendition of "All My Tears" to conclude the night. It was an
unexpected surprise and a great mood to leave the audience with. By the time the house lights came back on, it
was already almost 11:15pm, and all of the artists took some time afterwards to sign autographs and meet with fans.
Although seeing The Creation Tour last year at an arena and this year in a church sanctuary made the tour
feel more small-scale in its second run, this year seemed to be a much stronger show all-around (and last year
felt too much like a commercial for the Creation Festival). There's a great
mix of veteran and new talent and a strong blend of pop and rock music for audiences of all ages. Definitely catch
this tour if it rolls around your area. I'm really curious now to see if this truly becomes an annual gig and who might
be featured on future installments of the Creation Festival Tour.
-- John DiBiase, 10/21/09