The Art Of Celebration Tour is underway and everyone's favorite Irishmen Rend Collective (and friends) are spreading the joy of Jesus Christ throughout the states. This tour represents a truly unique worship experience- weaving an intricate party atmosphere seamlessly with intimate, contemplative devotion.
Moriah Peters opened up the show (along with her "fierce females", Elizabeth Chan and Jesi Jones), in support of her new sophomore offering, Brave. Peters kicked off the evening with a rollicking rendition of the title track, which got the crowd moving immediately and set the tone for the evening. She blazed through the anthemic track "To Leave It All Behind," which is one of the strongest tracks on her new album, and a standout when performed live. After pumping up the crowd, she shared her story of God's plan for her to not kiss anyone before marriage. She gave a shoutout to now-hubby, for KING & COUNTRY frontman Joel Smallbone before segueing into "Haven't Even Kissed" from her debut album. Surprisingly, Joel discreetly made his way into the pit of fans up front (literally standing right next to me) to take iPhone pictures of his wife, grinning from ear to ear. It was one of the sweeter moments to witness. While her set was disappointingly shorter than expected, Peters' set reflected a good representation of who she is as an artist and what she is all about.
After a short few moments, relative unknowns Urban Rescue were up. This is the first I had ever seen or heard of Urban Rescue, and I have to say I was very impressed. They have a full-length album and many EPs available right now on iTunes. Their newest EP, Wildfire, just dropped a few weeks ago and the promotion was heavily focused on that. The title track from said EP is one of their strongest songs, and was well received live with its message of our God being a wildfire despite what storms may rage on around us. Perhaps the best performance of the set was their song "Carry Me" (from the same EP), which tied directly into a big theme of Rend Collective's forthcoming set. On this night, Urban Rescue made a big name for themselves with great performances of meaningful, soulful songs. Hopefully being on the bill with Rend Collective is the first of many big steps this band will make in near future.
Patrick Thompson from Rend Collective came out next to promote the ministry of Compassion International. Did you know there's a 17 year-old girl in California who is working three part-time jobs to support SIXTEEN sponsored children?!? I see Compassion at every Christian concert I attend, but it seems like with every subsequent concert, I hear something even more miraculous.
After a short intermission, Rend Collective took the stage. Chris Llewellyn came out quietly strumming and singing the opening lines to "Joy," the opening track from The Art Of Celebration. After 90 seconds of this, the band erupted into a full-on joyful noise, complete with confetti being sprayed into the crowd. The opening line of this song is "We're choosing celebration." The audience completely agreed with this sentiment as dancing, singing, and all-around merriment was the theme for the rest of the night.
"Build Your Kingdom Here," "Burn Like A Star," "Praise Like Fireworks" and "My Lighthouse" followed up along with a mix of new and old songs in the first half of the concert. The set list was understandably The Art Of Celebration-heavy, but the entire concert was built around this concept. In the back of the church was a wall set up for concert goers to write their reasons for celebrating Jesus. Dubbed the "Celebration Wall," it was a beautiful touch and inspiring to ready the testimonies.
Through the night, things took a more solemn tone with performances of songs like "Finally Free" and "You Bled." It was a nice contrast to the all out celebratory tone woven through most of the night. Three-quarters of the way through the set list, Gareth Gilkeson took front and center to deliver a quick devotional about the meaning of "The Art Of Celebration," and how it is really one of the cornerstones of the gospel-- something people often are quick to forget. "Jesus endured the cross for the JOY set before him." He also comically made note of how the Irish disposition is often that of grumpiness, which is where "The Art" part of "The Art Of Celebration" comes into play. It's often something that you have to work at.
The last few songs after the message were more soulful and meditative than much of the earlier set. Perhaps the biggest standout performance of the night was an extended version of "Boldly I Approach (The Art Of Celebration)." This song, in essence, sums up the entire night and the entire experience of their concert. The final song was the ever-popular "More Than Conquerors." Before launching into the beautiful anthem, Chris encouraged the audience to make this their anthem. Seeing a large church full of people proclaiming "Nothing is impossible, every chain is breakable, with You, we are victorious" along with the band, and gazing at the Celebration Wall, provided an emotional high point to the night's festivities.
The inevitable encore included performances of "Create In Me" and "Simplicity," with the former being played on a fleet of instruments made from suitcases. I encourage everyone to make your way out to The Art of Celebration Tour if they come your way. I went in expecting a good show, and what I received was an experience unlike anything I imagined, with beautiful details woven into the fabric of the entire show. I highly recommend it.-- B.J. Smith, 9/26/14
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