When an artist in the Christian music industry crosses over to the mainstream, fans and onlookers bear different opinions on the move. While some embrace the transition, others can even go as far as claim the artists have lost their salvation. So where do Christians draw the line in "blending in" with the world? And why is reaching for the lost right where they're at taboo to some?
Controversy has been following San Diego hardcore band P.O.D. since they immerged to the mainstream. Since the departure of original guitarist Marcos Curiel in 2002, P.O.D. has been struggling to pick up the pieces. This Spring, the quartet embarks on a new headlining tour with Blindside and two newcomers, Lacuna Coil and Hazen St. With the buzz surrounding the new Blindside release and P.O.D.'s most recent album, we jumped at the chance to check out the tour.
With the plans to attend the show being very last minute, we arrived almost an hour after the show was scheduled to begin, missing opening acts Lacuna Coil and Hazen St. We mingled with some friends who were working the show before Sweden-bread rock powerhouse Blindside went on. The Starland Ballroom was located in the middle of nowhere in Sayreville, New Jersey. The oddly named bar/club was clouded with cigarette smoke, mixing audiences of Christian concert-goers and mainstream rock fans. A small entrance lead to an intimate concert setting with bars wrapping around the dance floor and a stage set in the back. It was essentially a great setup for a more personal experience, but the smoking and alcohol weren't to the show's benefit.
Blindside opened well will the opener from their latest record About A Burning Fire, "Eye Of The Storm". Lead vocalist Christian Lindskog projected each verse with infectious amounts of passion and emotion. It was hard not to be pulled into the feelings Lindskog portrayed. "Pitiful" followed, with the band radiating a fierce energy that rippled through the audience. There appeared to be no rules to control the audience, either. Crowd surfing was in abundance with bodies rising above the crowd before quickly diving back in. The melodic hardcore that Blindside has seemingly mastered on their two most recent releases continued as the set blended selections from both, forsaking material from their earlier, independent projects. The setlist was solid as they moved into "Follow You Down", "Caught A Glimpse", and their hit single "All Of Us". The frantic stage presence settled momentarily for their worship ballad "Shekina", in which I enjoyed watching Lindskog make an intimate spiritual connection with God, ignoring his surroundings. "Sleepwalking", "Swallow", and "Cute Boring Love" all preceding the finale which was beautifully the raucous "About A Burning Fire". Christian reached heavenward several times as his passionate screams belted out gut-wrenching praise to the Holy Spirit. Lindskog waded into the crowd who held him up in a standing position as he continued to sing. It only seemed inevitable when a full-blown stage dive followed not too much later.
A brief break between sets allowed for the stage to be setup appropriately for the headliner. By the time P.O.D. emerged on stage, the stage was almost unrecognizable as the drums now stood elevated substantially from the stage behind the band. A large logo protruded from in front of the riser with the rest of the rock quartet creating the foreground for the set. A tired Sonny Sandoval bounced into the spotlight for their intro with "Boom". With his set raised and the lights focused on him, Wuv's presence was probably more prominent than Sonny's as he frantically and mercilessly pounded away at the drums. The set moved smoothly into "Will You" and keeping it alive with "Set It Off". As the audience continued to get rowdier, Sonny paused between songs to urge the crowd to be considerate of one another. He then admitted that three days earlier he'd broken his ribs following a stage dive, explaining his restrained performance. Although P.O.D. had a tough act to follow with playing after Blindside, the veteran band held their own. They mixed their set pretty well, playing cuts mainly from their two most recent releases. Unfortunately, only the title track and "Lie Down" made it to the list from their stellar Southtown record, with the majority of the cuts being lifted from their recent self-titled release. Despite broken ribs, Sonny managed to still make it around the stage pretty good, even wading out into the crowd in the same fashion that Christian did. It was nice to see that after 13 years, P.O.D. could still get an audience moving.
A tour like this differs greatly from your typical Christian rock show. No messages were presented -- apart from what is in the artists' lyrics. And while the concert goers differed considerably in age and background, the warmth of a Christian-based crew and audience was missing. While I saw nothing from the artists that was objectionable, I wasn't overtly impressed either (although Blindside did make it a point to spend time with fans after the show). Fans skeptical of how these bands act on stage at a secular venue can rest assured that the guys carried themselves very well. It was umistakable that the members in these rock acts were different than your average chart-topper.
All in all, Blindside and P.O.D. put on fantastic rock performances. While Blindside offered a little more kick and crispness than P.O.D., the San Diego group unashamedly rocked the party with their raw and unbridled energy. However, the bottom line is I'd take a Christian-run tour over a non anyday, but it's great to see some light piercing the darkness thanks to P.O.D. and Blindside.-- John DiBiase, 5/12/04
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