An evening at the Called to Love Tour

The Called to Love Tour
downhere w/ Jason Gray and Aaron Shust
November 12th, 2011
Woodbridge, VA

2011 has been a big year for Centricity Music artists downhere, Jason Gray, and Aaron Shust. All three released fantastic, successful new albums around the same few, so what better time for the three to come together for an explosively awesome tour? Headlined by downhere, the Called to Love Tour began this fall in October and ended one week ago, primarily covering the East coast. Now, last year in 2010, I was incredibly blessed to see downhere (one of my absolute, all-time favorite bands, as any friends would know) for the first time when they came to Fredericksburg, VA, but did not expect they would return to the area just one year later for the second to last date of the Called to Love Tour in Woodbridge, where I would be blessed to see them for the second time, as well as Jason Gray and Aaron Shust for the first time! So, did this show live up to the high expectations and excited countdowns? (Okay, MY expectations countdowns) Was it a worthwhile visit for old fans and new listeners alike? Allow me to back up my confident “YES” by walking you through the wonderful show…

After meeting up with some fabulous fan friends at the venue, we visited the pre-show meet and greet, which was held in a small room where the few who purchased tickets that included that were able to chat with all the artists in a casual, unhurried way. (Definitely a far better option than busy and rushed after-show autograph lines – go for the VIP tickets whenever there’s an opportunity. Completely worth it!) After meeting and chatting with the downhere guys for the second time, I was able to meet Jason Gray and Aaron Shust for the first. I just have to make it known that each of these artists are truly fantastic people… it’s not uncommon for a meet and greet to be a bit on the awkward side, nor is it uncommon for musicians to go about them with a bit of a detached, business-like attitude (not that I put anyone on an “attitude pedestal” – we’re all human), but that was definitely NOT the case with these men. I have never met musicians who show such welcome, warmth, and connection to those they meet, not simply leaving all the hellos and thank-yous to the fans, but taking time themselves to get to know them. I was very blessed and encouraged by their conversations and friendliness, and I hope, if anyone reading has not yet met them, that they will have the privilege to do so one day!

Immediately after the meet and greet, I took my seat and was happily surprised to find that before the expected artists performed, the crazy amazing David Martel (brother of downhere co-lead singer Marc Martel) sang three lovely songs to the waiting audience. He may share various resemblances with his brother, but his style is 100% his own! His dreamy sounds, delightfully robotic dance moves, and brilliant stage presence drew us all in and made it difficult to see his set end so quickly. I hope to see him around more often in the future!

Very soon, the main show started and Aaron Shust opened his set with “This is What We Believe,” from his new album of the same name. Aaron’s whole set was a fantastic way to start the night, preaching the gospel in every lyric and continually keeping things upbeat. Though he sang many fantastic songs, it would not have been right to go on without his best loved single, “My Savior, My God,” so, of course, he included it later in the set, to the crowd’s delight! He closed perfectly with the beautiful “My Hope is in You” from his newest album. While he has a solid, fantastic sound, what really made the set for me was every song being jam-packed with gospel/truth-saturated lyrics… very well done!

After a video playing on the screens of Jason Gray asking Aaron Shust a series of hilarious (staged) questions comparing Aaron to Jason in some way or another, the wonderful Jason Gray began his set on a positive note with “Good to be Alive,” a great way to quickly warm up the crowd and make them right at home, then went into one of his somewhat recent radio hits, “More Like Falling in Love,” where he invited vocal participation from the audience, teasing the guys who weren’t quick to sing the high notes. He soon had all sit down for what he humorously called “Acoustic story time at the library with Jason Gray,” where he informed the audience that he suffers from a speech handicap known as stuttering – “Ironically, ‘stutter’ is one of the hardest words for us- you get the idea. Who’s coming up these words??” Even in the seemingly serious moments, his humble sense of humor remains.

A personal highlight for me was his performance of “Fear is Easy, Love is Hard,” to which he added simple, beautiful verses that were not in the studio recording, then talked about fear itself – how we were made for more than to be ruled by fear and shame, and that “It was for freedom that Christ Jesus has set us free” (Galatians 5:1). He was soon ready to perform the next song, only he told us that the needed piano player was not yet on stage. While waiting, he decided to give us a little magic show (that was a treat), then, finally, the awaited piano player arrived, Mr. Gray told us to pretend the silly magic show never happened, and we found that said piano player was downhere co-lead singer Jason Germain, who was running late due to “a deep, theological discussion” with Aaron Shust. Soon came an intimate, stripped down piano/vocal performance of “Nothing is Wasted” from the two Jason Gs, which Jason (Gray) introduced as a song “for those in the room, broken, who wonder if all that has gone wrong could be made right.” Definitely struck a chord with the audience. When the beautiful song finished, he told us, “You’re the only audience to see me do finger magic! That’s worth something… maybe not!” The musical mood picked back up with “I Am New,” and then ended the set perfectly with his newest hit, “Remind Me Who I Am,” which has been spreading like wildfire online and on radio, creating so much impact that the Remind Me Project was started as one more way of reminding us who we are in Christ. The end of the set was met with well-deserved, thunderous applause and cheering of the enthusiastic crowd. What a beautiful show! We were all captured and impacted by the comforting and challenging truths presented in each song, as well as by the approachable, transparent, and delightful personality of the musician delivering them.

After a decent little intermission, the lights finally dimmed, and the men of the hour, the wonderful downhere, were ready to begin their epic set. Jason Germain was the first to appear, grabbing our attention with sweet, enchanting sounds from the piano, which soon turned into the opening hook of “My Last Amen,” quickly joined by bassist Glenn Lavender playing the trumpet, as he always does for the brilliant song, followed by the vocals of Marc Martel, and the drumming of Jeremy Thiessen. The band went absolutely all out with this opening – punching up the sounds and rocking the room towards the end, Marc allowing his voice to freely fly off to ranges only he can reach, and so on. We were hooked. Things settled down a bit as they moved on to radio hit “Here I Am,” only to return to super excitement with “Living the Dream,” off their latest album, On the Altar of Love. Slowing down once again with the opening piano from “Let Me Rediscover You,” a hit off the new album, Marc humorously acknowledged, “Well, it can’t be fun and games all the time.” Even without the fun and games, the audience was united in a beautiful moment of worship, crying for a fresh, personal “rediscovery” of our God. Continuing in worship, they began the incredibly beautiful anthem, “Reveal the Kingdom,” during which there was a mind-blowing musical switch-up, playing the piano unlike anything we’d heard, increasing the tempo, and singing with the utmost passion. The closing lines were sung beautifully in Latin, and the lights instantly went out. A definite highlight!

Continuing the stream of new songs, things picked back up with “Altar of Love,” a wonderfully upbeat anthem for love, humility, and unity. Next was “Rest,” which, contrary to the title, was performed with a great deal of energy. After this, the beginning of the end was slowly and sadly arriving. Marc went on to tell the audience (readers – if you haven’t heard of this already, you most certainly should!) about his recent YouTube audition for the Queen Extravaganza that went viral due to his shocking vocal similarities to Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury (which downhere fans have known and adored for years before, of course), and even got him on the Ellen Show (a VERY surreal and exciting day!). His original audition video where he sung “Somebody to Love” has reached 5,000,000 views – “Compared to Justin Bieber, it’s not that much, but it means something to me!” he told us. Of course, he and the rest of the downhere guys went on to give a solid, top-notch performance of “Somebody to Love,” where they were soon joined by David Martel, Aaron Shust, and Jason Gray, who sang fabulous BGVs. The three stuck around and everyone closed the set with Hillsong’s “Mighty to Save,” took a bow, and left the stage… but we, the audience, loved the band too much to let them leave so soon. “You guys are surprisingly nice!” Marc humorously remarked when he returned to the stage after our relentless applause. He got on the piano and sang us a delightful little song called “Audience,” the band’s traditional end-of-show tribute to their audiences. Finally, as requested by various members of the audience, they performed “How Many Kings,” the Christmas song that has taken the radio by storm since it released – if you don’t know downhere, chances are you definitely know that song (and if not, where have you been hiding?? Go listen!). The show came to a complete and final end, and we were all perfectly satisfied and beyond happy from all we had seen and heard. Now, one side note – one of the greatest strengths of the show was each artist’s lyrics being displayed on the screens – it was an extremely helpful way to help new listeners adjust and feel like a part of the event!

After staying late with some the same fabulous friends from earlier (who know the artists) and enjoying sweet chats, funny stories, and ridiculous pictures with each of the fantastic guys who performed throughout the night, I was simply awestruck by the incredible showmanship and friendliness of everyone. I urge you, readers, to RUN and not walk to see these musicians as soon as they come even a little close to your area. Not only will you enjoy a perfectly delightful show, but you will be blessed by constant encouragement and worship with other Christians. Go!

From the show –

PHOTOS

VIDEOS

Aaron Shust setlist: “This is What We Believe” / “Risen Today” / “To God Alone” / “Your Majesty” / “We Fall Down” chorus / “Never Been a Greater Love” / “My Savior, My God” / “My Hope is in You”

Jason Gray setlist: “Good to be Alive” / “More Like Falling in Love” / “The Sound of Our Breathing” / “Fear is Easy, Love is Hard” / “Nothing is Wasted” / “I Am New” / “Remind Me Who I Am”

downhere setlist: “My Last Amen” / “Here I Am” / “Living the Dream” / “Let Me Rediscover You” / “Reveal the Kingdom” / “Altar of Love” / “Rest” / “Somebody to Love” / “Mighty to Save” / {ENCORE} / “Audience” / “How Many Kings”

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