I'll never forget the first time I saw Hawk Nelson live. Of course, it was almost four years and two drummers ago, but the young pop/punk band packed a church sanctuary one night, and the next night opened for a John Reuben set in a small gymnasium. The four guys were pretty much just getting started, but their show was a fun one. It's certainly a surreal experience to see them a few years later headlining a sell-out tour, complete with full production and lighting.
But The Green T Tour is the first big Hawk Nelson headlining tour of 2008, and the first since the release of their third record, Hawk Nelson Is My Friend. Out on the road with them for this string of dates are labelmates Run Kid Run and newcomers Capital Lights -- all fitting comfortably along with Hawk Nelson's signature brand of pop/punk rock.
Thanks to a nondescript address for the church that was listed on a concert informational site I won't name (*wink*), we got lost trying to find the Calvary Church in Souderton, and arrived shortly after Capital Lights had begun their set. Although we missed most of it, the group displayed a lot of energy as they performed their songs from their upcoming debut album. With the fanbase for the artists on tour being predominantly young teens, the band smartly tossed in a Hannah Montana cover song, which - surprisingly to me - garnered immense applause from the sold-out audience. These guys definitely knew who they were playing to - and how to leave a lasting impression on them.
BEC Recordings pop/punk band Run Kid Run followed. After just having seen Superchick's Cross The Line Tour the night before which consisted of five live acts, three bands seemed rather short. However, this alotted for more time for each band, including the headliner, and RKR proceeded to perform an eight-song setlist. Opening with "We've Only Just Begun" from their debut This Is Who We Are, Run Kid Run performed with confidence, grabbing the attention of a lot of the audience, many of which probably weren't familiar with their music. But even when they debuted cuts from their upcoming album Love At The Core, there just wasn't much diversity in their sound to separate a lot of the songs from each other. While some of the songs were more memorable than others, the band just didn't have much of a stage presence - something that would be reinforced by watching Hawk's headlining spot. Probably the most infectious thing about Hawk Nelson is their personalities and how those personalities come out in their performances. But Run Kid Run is still a fine warm up act, and they continued their set with "Rescue Me," "Move On," "Sing To Me," "Captives Come Home," "Wake Up, Get Up," and "One In A Million." As they closed with "The Call Out," a few members from Capital Lights joined the guys for vocals, with one of them filming the band and audience by waving a camcorder around. It brought a nice rousing finish to RKR's set.
When the band cleared the stage, Hawk Nelson bassist Daniel Biro emerged to share with the audience about Compassion International and his trip in early '08 to Haiti to visit his sponsor child. Several video screens were stationed behind the bands as they played, and they were used this time for displaying a Compassion video of Biro's Haiti trip. It was a nice way to tie in the message of sponsorship.
After a brief intermission, the lights dimmed once again for the final act. To kick off their set, Hawk Nelson opened with the first track on their new record, "You Have What I Need," a rocking anthem that makes for a great show starter. While the screens behind the band were merely used for ads during the opening sets and intermissions, for Hawk's set it was utilized to display music videos or swirling shapes and lights. Hawk Nelson has truly transitioned to headliner status and it was nice to see that. The first single from their new album, "Friend Like That" followed, along with "The Show" from their sophomore album. At this point, the band dedicated the next song to fellow children of the 80's (which didn't make up too much of their audience, but we were happy to be included), and performed a solid cover of Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun." Hawk has often included a cover or two into their set - from opening with Audio Adrenaline's "Clap Your Hands" last year to The Cars' "Just What I Needed" or Oasis' "Don't Look Back In Anger," and this particular choice seemed to suit the band - and audience - quite well. "Hello" was next, and Hawk frontman Jason Dunn pulled a select few of HN fans to join him on stage for kazoo accompaniment in the song. And after their moment in the spotlight, Dunn kicked them off stage for the band to perform a few "oldies," "Letters To The President" and "Every Little Thing," before debuting another new track, the memorable "Arms Around Me." Dunn then sat himself behind a keyboard for the ballad "Take Me" and expressed the band's appreciation for their fans before getting up again and performing the fan favorite "Everything You Ever Wanted." "Let's Dance" was an ideal live choice from their most recent record, with "Turn It On" and another fan favorite, "California," following. The anthem againt gossip "Just Like Me" preceded their grand finale, "Bring 'Em Out," which featured footage from the movie Yours, Mine & Ours on the screens behind them as they played. The song was written for a scene in the movie where Hawk Nelson performs at a high school house party. Although ultimately a silly song (which the guys will admit themselves), it often makes for a great live moment. After they exited the stage, the lights stayed out, which only reassured fans that the band would return. Sure enough, Hawk Nelson came back out one last time for "The One Thing I Have Left," which also featured the music video from the song playing behind them.
We were impressed with the band's stint as the headliner. Love 'em or hate 'em, Hawk Nelson is a great alternative to the mainstream pop/punk acts that rely on angst and rebellion rather than faith. And it was especially refreshing (although, the show did take place in a church), to hear the guys share openly about their faith in Jesus from the stage. With teenagers being surrounded by a myriad of negative influences, Hawk Nelson is a light in the darkness. The Green T Tour is indeed a good time, so fans would be thrilled to catch this one if they can.-- John DiBiase, 4/11/08
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