Canadian pop punk rock band Hawk Nelson have come along way since their humble beginnings with their Tooth & Nail Records debut in 2004. This is their eighth year as a band, and as they get ready to release their fifth album (yes, their fifth) in February, Hawk Nelson presents the unique "Fly Me To The Show" Fall Tour.
On some (if not all) dates on this tour, headliners Hawk Nelson offered premium VIP tickets that included a CD and t-shirt, along with early admittance into a special acoustic set. So almost two hours before start time, Hawk Nelson came out to perform four cuts, unplugged, for a select group of fans. It was laid back and intimate, with the pop punk quartet adding a friend on violin into the mix as they stripped their songs down to the basics. They opened with "Zero" and then talked about their new acoustic project coming out entitled The Light Sides, for which the song "Stage Fright" was expanded from just being a snippet at the end of Live Life Loud, and then played the song. Vocalist Jason Dunn took a moment after the song to confess that he had forgotten to bring any warm clothes for this tour over the next two weeks, despite their plans to hit locations (like Pennsylvania) that would be experiencing much cooler autumn weather. He announced the next song as a love song and played "Long Ago" from Live Life Loud. They then shared a few thoughts about this tour and closed with "The Final Toast." Although short, it was a great little intimate set for fans to enjoy.
Not every tour has continuity. Even Fireflight's "For Those Who Wait: The Tour" is more of your usual string of performances from acts that are making the rounds from city to city on the road together. But for the Fly Me To The Show Tour, the night felt more like a cohesive event than just a series of random performances. On Thursday, October 28th, before a pretty packed house at Manor Church in Lancaster, PA, experimental hip hop veteran John Reuben officially christened the evening, musically speaking, by performing an altered version of his own song, "Jamboree," substituting the chorus for a sing-a-long of "Fly - me - to - the - show" with the audience. Immediately following the tour-specific song, John introduced the night's first set, Essential Records' own Revive.
Except for new guitarist AJ Cheek, formerly of the disbanded Nevertheless, Revive hails from Australia and offers mostly your usual CCM pop rock fare. The foursome opened with "Almost Missed This Moment," the lead-off track from their latest record, Blink. Their songs carry a mostly worshipful feel and although their sound is a little more of a rock base than some worship acts, Revive doesn't really offer a whole lot to stand out from their counterparts. While Dave Hanbury is a decent vocalist and front man, his performance may be slightly too dramatic (seeming a bit forced), where a more natural approach might really benefit not only the Revive live show, but the songs they're performing. Still, they're a decent kick-off act, even if they weren't necessarily the best match for a tour like this (but they definitely add needed variety). Their five-song set continued, including all songs from their new release, with "My Hope" next, "Something Glorious" following, then the title track, "Blink," and closed with "Don't Give Up The Fight." Throughout the duration of their set, lyrics to their songs displayed on screens on the walls of the sanctuary that bookended the band, allowing the concert goers to join in the singing - which seemed to certainly help stir up some crowd participation.
As soon as Revive's set ended, Reuben came back out, dressed completely in foil (and metallic tubing on his arms), to match the album cover of his most recent recording, Sex, Drugs and Self-Control. With just his regular drummer, Seth, as accompaniment, John performed three songs, first with "Radio Makes You Lonely" and then "No Be Nah." He successfully pumped up the audience again, including his usual stage gimmick of teasing the audience with a free t-shirt. Except, this time, instead of announcing, "Who wants a free t-shirt?!" like he normally would, John held up a white tee that displayed those words. The tactic worked beautifully, and as he teased the audience once more, without handing over the shirt, he closed his interlude with a rendition of "Good Evening" that had him encouraging the audience to echo back the words "dance party" before handing the stage over to Britt Nicole.
Now, I've seen Britt Nicole a couple of times since she debuted in 2007 with her album, Say It -- once at Creation Fest and another time on tour with Superchick and Disciple in 2008, so it's been at least two years since I last saw the pop singer live. This time, Nicole had a full band to support her instead of just performing to tracks. It's evident that the singer has grown a lot in the time since I last saw her, too, as she gave one of the most real and humble live performances I've seen to date. Britt opened with "Welcome To The Show" from her newest release, The Lost Get Found, and frequently engaged her enthusiastic fans. I honestly can't say her power pop style is a sound I normally would include in my listening rotation, but her stage presence is warm and infectious. The pop anthem "Glow" was next and then Britt began sharing very passionately and emotionally from her heart about God's faithfulness and love, which stopped much of her listeners in their tracks. She began to perform "Set The World On Fire," from Say It, and towards the end of the song, reached into the audience upon seeing one of the crowd members in tears and pulled her to the edge of the stage. Britt proceeded to do one of the coolest things I've ever seen in my years going to concerts. While the band continued to play, Britt, hunched over the stage and embracing the girl, held her and prayed for her privately (not into the microphone for everyone to hear). This actually lasted a few minutes before Britt stood back up and announced to the crowd that she was going to change her set up a bit. She began speaking emotionally about Christ setting us free from sin and our freedom through it and lead into her song "Feel The Light" from Lost Get Found. She then picked up the mood a bit with the upbeat, poppy "Headphones" (even snatching a fan's pair of Hawk Nelson glasses to wear during part of the song before returning them) and pulled a fan up on stage with her. She encouraged the audience to follow their dreams and mentioned that the young lady on stage with her had the dream of being a singer. Britt tried her best to get her to sing along without forcing her, but the young girl was visibly (and understandably) nervous. "Hanging On" was next, followed by "Walk On The Water," in which she also pulled a fan on stage to sing along with her. Unfortunately, due to her talks and spontaneous interactions with the crowd, upon announcing her last song, "The Lost Get Found," she was told she was out of time and exited the stage. I've seen many shows over the years with many interactions between the artists and the audience. I've seen many performances that were showy and many that seemed genuine. I was very impressed with the realness of Britt Nicole's performance and her heart for Jesus was as clear as day. The love she showed to her audience was truly inspiring.
Before an intermission, Sammy Adebiyi, who previously has been seen on tour with Sanctus Real, came out to share some sobering words about poverty and the church's responsibility to be Christ's hands and feet to the world. It was much of the same message he's given before, but it was still an important one to hear. He encouraged the audience to look into and sign up with Mocha Club, a ministry that helps provide for impoverished Africans for just $7 a month (the price of two mochas). After Sammy's talk, a ten minute intermission ensued.
A set change occured and John Reuben came back out one last time to perform a couple more songs. Serving as a re-energizer for the audience, John performed a portion of "Doin'" before shofting into "Move," and then wrapped up with "Word Of Mouth" (and eventually gave away a t-shirt to the audience). Before leaving the stage, John announced the evening's main act, and Hawk Nelson emerged for a feature performance. Upon John's exit, four large black cloths were pulled down from the stage backdrop, revealing four glowing letters that spelled out the name "HAWK." It was a nice touch. The guys opened with the rocker "Alive" from Live Life Loud and continued with "Friend Like That" from Hawk Nelson Is My Friend. The album opener from the same record, "You Have What I Need," was next and then the band mixed it up a bit to include fan favorite "The Show" from their sophomore album, Smile, It's The End Of The World. Another favorite followed in "Bring 'Em Out," and the guys offered a great selection of songs to keep the crowd pumped up. After Dunn explained that the next song was written after working in a hospital toll booth, they played "The Job" and then dug out "Things We Go Through" from their 2004 debut, Letters To The President. Afterwards, Jason shared a little about their upcoming album Crazy Love and the accompanying acoustic bonus disc and performed an acoustic update of "Everything You Ever Wanted." Dunn seemed pleased with how the song sounded and announced that the next one was a personal favorite of the band's and lead into the ballad "36 Days" from Letters. Dunn then picked up a ukelele to express their love for the Calgary Flames in "Ode To Lord Stanley," with the rest of Jason's bandmates gathering around him to sing and provide finger snaps. They continued with a cover of "I'm Yours" and then went back to their plugged-in rock sound for "Hello."
Jason took a moment to reflect on God's love in an intro to the title track from their upcoming record, "Crazy Love," which showcased the band's more pop, radio-friendly side. Fan favorite "California" from their debut was next, and then the fun and funky "Let's Dance." Finally, after a generous assortment of Hawk Nelson songs, the foursome closed with "Live Life Loud," mixing in a cover of "Rockin' In The Free World" before leaving the stage. But no good show would be complete without an encore and Hawk Nelson returned for a trio of closers, starting with another brand new song, "Your Love is a Mystery," followed by the rocker "One Thing I Have Left." And lastly, the band ended with "Fly Me To The Show," a tour-specific rendition of the 1950's classic "Fly Me To The Moon" (made popular by Frank Sinatra). And for the fun little update, Revive's Hanbury, Britt Nicole, and John Reuben all joined the Hawk boys at one point to sing along. It was a great way to wrap up the evening and the perfect way to bring more continuity to the tour. And if fans were hoping to get a chance to meet any or all of the artists that played during the night, each one spent some time in the lobby after the show to meet and greet.
Fly Me To The Tour is definitely a highlight among the Fall 2010 tours, and one that fans of any of the acts on the billing shouldn't miss! And if you're unfamiliar with some or all of these acts, fans of pop rock and power pop would especially enjoy this fun evening of music, entertainment, and spiritual inspiration.-- John DiBiase, 11/2/10
Hawk Nelson Set List
02. Friend Like That
03. You Have What I Need
04. The Show
05. Bring 'Em Out
06. The Job
07. Things We Go Through
08. Everything You Ever Wanted
09. 36 Days
10. Ode To Lord Stanley / I'm Yours
12. Crazy Love
14. Let's Dance
15. Live Life Loud / Rockin' In The Free World
16. Your Love is a Mystery
17. One Thing I Have Left
18. Fly Me to the Show
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