A Bittersweet Evening: Saying Farewell to Downhere

This week, the band downhere came to the end of their Living The Dream Farewell Tour, and I could not be more grateful to have been able to attend their second to last show of the tour in Williamsburg, VA on October 14th.  Since July, when the band announced their plans to finish touring and recording, I almost never even tried to wrap my mind around the reality that it was coming to an end.  I doubted I’d even be emotional at the Farewell show.  It shouldn’t come as any surprise that I was quite wrong about that!

It was such a delight to reunite with my dear downhomie friends, who have been present every time I’ve seen downhere live, and who I wouldn’t know nearly as much as I do if it wasn’t for downhere.  I met new friends as well; some who I’ve come to know online recently (again, because of downhere) and couldn’t wait to meet in person, and others who I’d only come to know for the first time that evening.  One of the many emotional aspects of the evening was looking back on how many special friendships of mine have been formed through mutual interests in downhere.  Friendships that have brought me so much joy, laughter, fun, encouragement, prayer, growth, and upbuilding fellowship.  I talked later with Jeremy Thiessen (drummer) about that special, instant community that comes with downhere fans; how it wasn’t the doing of the band, but God working through the band to create something huge, valuable, and lasting among people.

Performing live in Williamsburg on the Living The Dream Farewell tour

(Photos from the concert can be found here)

The show itself was completely incredible; everything we could have hoped for.  Everything sounded positively great.  The band gave it their all in every performance and played with maximum excellence, as always; I’ve never heard anything less from them live!  It was so exciting for us fans to hear them open with the classics “Starspin” and “Larger Than Life” (the latter being one of my personal favorites), and for me, to hear them play so many of the same songs they played the first time I saw them live two years ago.  Another thing that added to the emotion of the evening was simply watching and hearing the set;  being that this was my very last time seeing downhere in concert, I was compelled to ponder and take in each song that was played.  It would be the last time I would hear all these songs live, and I wanted these last times to be savored and thoroughly enjoyed.  This was where my denial of emotion came to an end.  The inclusion of “All At War” was the first thing to begin bringing me to tears (for which I was later teased by co-leadsinger Jason Germain), but I lost it when they played three songs back to back that have been of great, great comfort to me in trials and struggles; the tears came, doubled, and tripled when “Calmer of the Storm,” “Hope Is Rising,” and “Rest” were played.  I was moved again by the personal impact of the lyrics, and reminded of how God has used these songs in my life; reminded of his faithfulness in difficulties.  I could continue to go on and on about the excellence of the whole set, but I’ll wrap that part up by fast forwarding to my favorite part: the final song of the set was the beautiful and worshipful “Great Are You,” during which emotions definitely began to arise in the room.  The whole song and show were ended with the singing of the Latin words we’ve heard in “Reveal The Kingdom:”

“Exsiccatum est foenum, et cecidit flos; Verbum autem Domini nostri manet in aeternum.

(“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”)

I couldn’t help but come to tears at this point, pondering that verse.  These times of downhere and their wonderful shows have been absolutely incredible and adored, and will be remembered with so much fondness by us fans, and while we’re watching these things come to an end, what lasts is all God has done through it.  Apart from his own work, a song is only a song.  His word will stand forever.

I am beyond grateful to have been able to see downhere live these four times.  I have been immensely blessed during each experience on so many levels.  The sets, the stories shared, and the encouragement given.  Another blessing is having been able to meet and spent some time with Jason, Marc, Glenn, and Jeremy after the sets with my friends.  I’ve enjoyed the short but sweet conversations; the deep, mundane, and the humorous; from the color teal, to photography, to dealing with stress.  I’ve also been amazed by their exceptional memory; I never really expected them to remember me from show to show, but even with a good amount of time passed, they’ve remembered me and immediately greeted me with enthusiasm and kindness.  This is how they treat all their fans; they are always eager to show welcome and warmth to everyone at the shows, and make a true effort to connect.  I am just one of many who have been blessed by this!

“Bittersweet” has to be the defining word for that night, but it was more sweet than bitter.  Though much sadness was experienced among everyone at the show, including myself, over the ending of such a sweet era, it was both intertwined and overwhelmed by joy and gratitude.  I am endlessly grateful to God for how he has used the music and ministry of downhere in my life;  I have learned that I am not alone in the struggles I face.  I have learned that God’s forgiveness is final and that his grace is abundant and available.  I have learned, that even in my doubt, God’s love for me is greater than I can possibly imagine.  For these things, and more, I will forever be grateful.  Thank you, and farewell.

Setlist:

  • “Starspin”
  • “Larger Than Life”
  • “Cathedral Made Of People” (with “Protest To Praise” chorus)
  • “All At War”
  • “My Last Amen”
  • “A Better Way”
  • “Calmer Of The Storm”
  • “Hope Is Rising”
  • “Rest”
  • “Living The Dream”
  • “The More”
  • “Let Me Rediscover You”
  • “Here I Am”
  • “How Many Kings”
  • “Bleed For This Love”

(Encore)

  • “What It’s Like”
  • “Great Are You” (with Latin verse)

To all involved with The Called to Love Tour

… and they’re back!  Picking up where they left off last fall, the wonders that are downhere, Jason Gray, and Aaron Shust began the second leg of The Called to Love Tour last week in Alexandria, Virginia, are continuing the tour until May.  I am still so, very thrilled that I was able to attend the tour again when it came to Virginia for its opening night last Thursday;  so thrilled, in fact, that I feel the need to say a couple thank-yous.

First off, the night was indescribably delightful.  I couldn’t have been happier to talk to those kind, fantastic people again and hear them play their wonderful, encouraging music.  As usual, downhere, Jason, and Aaron were all outstanding in their performances and in their ministry, moving us with their tunes, making us laugh at all the right moments, building us up with their words of encouragement, and uniting us in a time of intimate worship.  I could go into more detail, but I’ll simply say that it was everything it should be.

I wanted to take time to thank everyone involved with the tour for blessing us fans at these shows in such huge ways.  To Aaron, Jason, and the men of downhere, THANK YOU.  Thank you for showing us fans kindness, both on and off stage, by the way you share your hearts through songs, stories, and conversations.  I know that everyone who has attended the shows, including myself, has been extremely blessed by those things.  We are all immensely grateful for you guys.  To the roadies, sound guys, everyone selling merch, and the rest of the crew, for working so hard, non-stop, pulling these things together.  You’re the ones that keep everything happening.  What would a show be without you all?  To Brandon, Duffy, and Nate, for serving Jason, Aaron, and everyone else with your super talents and help!  Now, thank you to everyone involved, for something that I’ve especially noticed this tour: perseverance.  Whenever there’s been difficulty, whether it be the inability to fit lights and equipment into a tiny church, losing a tire, or waking up with a cold, everyone has persevered.  Everyone keeps moving, and the show goes on.  Such awesome dedication among both musicians and crew.  There are a million more things I could mention, but for all the things mentioned before, thank you, once again, to everyone, even those not listed, involved with The Called to Love Tour!

Now, a suggestion.  This suggestion goes out, not to the musicians and crew, but to fans, and even non-fans.  If at all possible, PLEASE try to attend this wonderful tour!  Even if you don’t know the first thing about any of the music, go anyway!  You will have a wonderful time and will certainly be blessed.  Take in the music, say hi to the guys, and enjoy the heck out of the night!  There are 21 dates left.  Visit the Called To Love Tour website to see if it’s coming to your area!

 

A few shots from opening night in Alexandria, VA –

 

 

downhere | Jason Gray | Aaron Shust | Centricity Music

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”

My First downhere Show

…and hopefully the first of many! After a long time of hoping, waiting (and honestly, praying!), God kindly blessed me with the opportunity to see one of my all-time favorite bands, downhere, in concert on August 22nd in Fredericksburg, VA. Since becoming a major fan of the band and their music over the past couple of years, I’ve strongly desired to see them live, but never had the chance as they were never around my area. After all the waiting, hoping and praying, I was immensely happy and equally surprised to find that they were coming to Virginia. Was it worth the anticipation? Read on and find out…
…okay, I can’t bear to do that. Real quick, the answer is, “HECK YES!!!”, but I do want to talk about how awesome the show actually was. Unsuccessfully battling nerves (happy excitement!) about the event, I waited outside for the venue doors to open, got my tickets, met up with some friends who are long-time downhere fans, and waited for the show to start. Just when the concert was supposed to be starting, a hilariously awkward moment came about…a member of the church said a quick prayer before everything, and, telling things to start up, told the audience, “Now, watch this!”…only, we weren’t entirely sure what we were supposed to be watching! As an awkward silence filled the room, we were warned that there were some technical difficulties, but things were quickly ironed out and the show began with a five minute video intro playing on the screens. Soon enough, the video was ending with countdown to the start of the show, and the members of downhere came onto the stage; first drummer Jeremy Thiessen and bassist Glenn Lavender, then lead singers Jason Germain and Marc Martel. The deep, mysterious sounds of “Cathedral Made of People” (always a perfect opener) filled the room. It was amazing how such a huge, grand sound could come from only four people, and still remain just as brilliant in such a small venue. The performance was absolutely epic, and I truly mean it.
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Keeping the energy up, they went into “The More,” which wonderfully included even longer and higher notes from co-lead singer Marc Martel than in the studio recording. When “The More” concluded, Glenn Lavender switched from his bass to a trumpet to open the fantastically brilliant single “My Last Amen.” Before mellowing things down with “Hope Is Rising,” co-lead singer Jason Germain shared a story about his past experience with recurring panic attacks and finding hope in the midst of that. He encouraged the audience, addressing those who may be in the middle of a “storm,” that our hope is found in the person and power of Jesus. “Hope is rising,” he said as he ended his story and began the song. Interestingly, a verse (sung by Marc) from the song “Iliad” was added to the song…it flowed very nicely with the rest of the song! Moving on, the performance was incredibly heartfelt. Both Jason and Marc gave stellar vocal performances with soaring harmonies. One of the most remarkable things about downhere is how their two lead singers’ voices couldn’t be more different from eachother, yet work together beautifully.
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Next was “How Many Kings,” a song that has really invaded Christian radio for the past three years and gotten the band a great deal of attention. Marc first shared a story about how the song came about; how the mission was to write a song that would “look at Christmas from a different angle that no one had thought of in two thousand years.” “You know…easy,” he finished humorously. Of course, as we all know, the end result was perfectly successful! 😉 As always, the performance was absolutely fantastic!
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The band went on to perform their latest single, “You’re Not Alone” (which FYI, is also on their recently released collection of B-sides, Two At A Time). Although the majority of the song is sung by Jason, it was nice to be able to hear Marc’s vocal contributions a little more clearly. They went straight into “What It’s Like,” from their sophomore album So Much For Substitutes, during which there was fantastic vocal participation from the audience, and then, the best part: crazy, awesome dance moves from Marc Martel that you simply have to see. On that note, Marc’s showmanship is incredible; full of personality. He does things on stage that many other performers are afraid to do; in that way, he reminds me of people like Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin and former Delirious? lead singer Martin Smith; fearlessly interpreting and expressing the music, either through dancing, jumping, or, in Marc’s case, vocals that travel to ranges unreached by the average musician. Seriously…you should hear his high notes!
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Keeping things upbeat and interesting, they went on to perform “The Problem,” from their most recent album, Ending Is Beginning…it’s common at almost every concert to notice things like this, but this was one of many songs that sounded even better live than the already-brilliant-and-awesome studio version; the instrumentation (particularly Jeremy Thiessen’s drumming) had even greater punch and personality than before (and believe me, it was definitely there before!). Of course, who can forget that simple, but trademark intro bassline from Glenn Lavender? Though it’s only heard a couple of times, I feel the song wouldn’t be quite the same without it.
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Slowing things down a bit again (but by no means boring us), Jason returned to his piano and played the opening chords of “A Better Way,” and when finished with that song, went into “Great Are You,” from the band’s self-titled debut album (released in 2001); both beautiful, heartfelt songs. Picking up the pace a bit, they started “Here I Am,” one of their more recent singles that has become very popular on the radio. I enjoyed these three songs immensely. At this point in the concert, those three songs that were performed were songs that are sung mostly by Jason. I must say, I love Jason’s songs. A lot of his songs tend to be slightly more mellow, but they are just as important and just as enjoyable as the rest of downhere’s songs; Jason’s voice and style are simple, but strong. His voice and writing have this heart and depth that are absolutely vital to the band’s sound. I’m not saying it wouldn’t be there without him; but anybody familiar with the band knows that the voices and styles of both Jason Germain and Marc Martel are equally important in downhere. So, making my point, I immensely enjoyed hearing a few “Jason songs” all around the same time!
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Sadly beginning the end of the concert, the band performed “Bleed For This Love,” which involved lots of delightful audience participation with vocals again (I loved how interactive Marc was with the audience), and plenty of enthusiastic jumping as well! It ended with Glenn taking out his tambourine, the audience singing happily and loudly along with the band, Marc saying thank you and goodbye to the crowd, and, of course, we didn’t forget to cheer on the encore! They weren’t going to leave us hanging for too long, so Marc came back out to the piano that had normally been used by Jason, talked a bit, and went on to play the band’s trademark encore song, “Audience,” a humorous and downright brilliant musical tribute to…well, the audience! After playing and singing the first couple of verses on his own, Jason, Glenn and Jeremy joined in to give the little song an epic and grand ending, then, for the final song, the band ended appropriately on a worshipful note with Hillsong’s famous “Mighty to Save,” pointing us to the glory and power of Christ and the gospel.
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How do I begin my ending? The show was FANTASTIC. Their talent was impeccable. I had the great pleasure and privilege of meeting and talking to the band a bit, and of my favorite artists that I have met, they were some of the nicest, most down-to-earth ones yet. What can I say? It was a ridiculously wonderful, fun, fantastic evening. With all the anticipation, it went by so fast; I would have loved to have heard them play more (I must confess, I hoped to hear “Rockstars Need Money,” but I totally understand if they’re tired of playing it!), but everything was fantastic. Though their music is amazing and their shows are wonderful, the one thing that first got me listening to downhere and the thing I love the most about them, is their passion for keeping things focused on Christ. It was almost three years ago when I heard downhere for the first time on the radio; like the experience of most new fans, it was “How Many Kings” that I heard. Though I liked the unique sound because it was different from most of what you hear in contemporary Christian music these days, the thing that I found most appealing was the thing that you really don’t hear enough of in CCM: Gospel-centered lyrics. I’ve always LOVED downhere’s music and sound, but what I love the most is the lyrics and the attention they give to the Gospel. I’m glad God’s put that on their hearts. It’s something I’ve always felt there needs to be more of in music, and I couldn’t be more thrilled that God’s using them to get it there.
So…goodnight, goodbye, go listen to downhere, and if they’re having a concert in your area, go check it out! Trust me…you’ll be glad you did!
Set list:
Cathedral Made of People
The More
My Last Amen
Hope Is Rising
How Many Kings
You’re Not Alone
What It’s Like
The Problem
A Better Way
Great Are You
Here I Am
Bleed For This Love
Encore
Audience
Mighty to Save
Of course, you will never find me without…
Pictures from the concert…
…and videos, too.

An American Idol Experience

…no, I didn’t visit the Disney World attraction. I didn’t audition for the show, either. By a crazy miracle, I was blessed with tickets to the 2010 American Idol Live tour! Anyone who knows me knows that I am an avid fan of the TV show American Idol, so it should be no surprise that this was impossibly exciting to me! (And I still can’t quite believe it happened!) I attended the concert on July 23rd at the Nissan Pavilion (which is now unfortunately renamed Jiffy Lube Live; I prefer to call it by its original name!), an outdoor venue…yes, it was HOT! I cannot begin to tell you how steaming it was out there; but for me, it was absolutely worth it! It was an extremely enjoyable concert for all ages. Performing were the top ten contestants from the latest season of American Idol, including winner Lee DeWyze and runner-up Crystal Bowersox. They all performed in order of who was first eliminated on the show, ending the concert with the winner.
First to perform was the sweet and sensitive Didi Benami, who, unfortunately, experienced technical difficulties with her mic. She came out on stage and sang almost the entire song with no sound coming out of the mic, until her show was finally stopped and she and the band went backstage while the technical difficulties were being ironed out. Even in the midst of that, Didi was a very good sport and remained optimistic. Finally, everything was fixed, and she came back out singing “Lay It On Me” by the Rescues and happily shouted to the crowd, “Can you hear me now?”…and we could hear her loud and clear! She then closed with Kara DioGuardi’s “Terrified,” left the stage, and then Andrew Garcia came out with his guitar singing his unique version of Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up” that got him so much attention during the Hollywood round of American Idol, and closed with Maroon 5’s “Sunday Morning.” Andrew has a great personality; he’s not afraid of crowds and seems very comfortable on stage!
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Next was Katie Stevens, a teen full of energy and powerhouse vocals, singing “Here We Go Again” by Demi Lovato and “Stronger Than Ever” by Christina Aguilera, which Katie sang with the rest of the female contestants and Christina Aguilera herself at the American Idol finale. I enjoyed Katie’s show quite a bit; even in the ridiculous heat, her energy was so infectious that she got me dancing and singing instantly. Those songs were a perfect fit for her, and I think she has potential to make some strong, energetic pop music. She’s a very tough, confident performer!
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After Katie was Tim Urban, whose smile and perpetual optimism in the midst of tension on American Idol always made him impossible to dislike. He came out with his guitar and sang “Better Days” by the Goo Goo Dolls, then closed with a more acoustic guitar-focused and definitely perfect-for-Tim version of Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida,” which seemed to be a good crowd-pleaser; and being the Coldplay fan that I am, it was definitely pleasing to me! Tim seemed very much at ease, happy to be playing his music. I hope and can’t wait to hear original material from him in the future!
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Next up was the wild and unique Siobhan Magnus. Her entrance was mysterious and theatrical; the lights were dimmed and glowed red, music reminiscent of the soundtracks from the early Harry Potter movies played, and she stepped on to the stage sporting a big, poofy skirt, a corset-style top, wild boots and fishnet stockings, and began her fantastic, energetic version of “Paint It Black,” which she sang on the show on Rolling Stones night. It was just as great as it was on TV! And, yes, she even ended with that trademark scream of her’s! She sang “Spiderwebs” by No Doubt, energetically jumping and dancing, then closed with “Stockholm Syndrome” by Muse, which fit her personality and voice perfectly. The show was great; Siobhan is quite the entertainer! The funny thing about her is how she can put on a wild, screaming, theatrical performance and end her song with a sweet, tiny “thank you so much!” to the crowd; I believe former American Idol judge Simon Cowel said it best when he told her during the show’s semi-finals, (cue British accent) “You are a funny little thing, aren’t you?”
siobhan
Next was the young and humble Aaron Kelly. It seemed that while he was competing on the show, his talent just hadn’t quite reached its full potential. However, one of the great things about the American Idol tour is that it gives contestants a chance to let loose and grow without the pressure of competition, and I think Aaron is one of the contestants to whom this tour has been very beneficial! His voice was consistently strong the entire time. He opened with “Somebody Like You” by Keith Urban, then “Walking In Memphis” (a personal favorite of mine) and “Fast Cars and Freedom” by Rascal Flatts…all really great songs for him; really suited his country style. For his fourth and final song, he was joined by Didi, Andrew, Katie, Tim and Siobhan to sing “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus, which was the song Aaron sang when he auditioned for American Idol. A more intimate performance, each person sat on a stool and did a lovely job singing; it seemed to go over well with the crowd. They gave it a grand finish, and ended that show. One of the best parts of Aaron’s show is when you watch him perform, you can tell he really loves what he’s doing. I have no doubt that he’ll produce some great music in the future, and I can’t wait to see what he does! I’ve got a feeling he has a bright future ahead of him. (By the way, check out his Flickr…he’s a fantastic photographer!)
aaron the_climb
After a brief intermission, it was time for Michael Lynche – known to his fans as Big Mike. Most of Mike’s set was fairly mellow, but very heartfelt and beautiful. He opened with “This Woman’s Work,” which he sang in the semi-finals of American Idol. He brought a more moody feel with “Ready For Love;” an absolutely wonderful performance. He brought things up more for the end of his set with Justin Timberlake’s “My Love,” an incredibly fun crowd-pleaser. Mike’s set was very enjoyable; he delivered a solid vocal performance and has a great personality; absolutely fantastic with crowd interaction! Most of all, he is very good at what he does and takes it seriously, but knows when to have fun, too! Very talented guy.
mike
Next was Casey James, a favorite among fans of classic 70’s rock. The mood was perfectly rock and roll when he came out with his famous blue Fender Stratocaster guitar, playing The Black Keys’ “I Got Mine.” He then performed “Don’t” (sung originally on Idol for Shania Twain week), and invited Michael Lynche back to the stage to duet together on “Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman,” which they sang together on the show; an absolutely fabulous performance from Casey and Mike, both on television and in person. Their harmonies were strong and sung with great passion; they both did a fantastic job! Casey closed his set with the Rolling Stones’ “It’s All Over Now,” (performed for Rolling Stones week on Idol) bringing the definitive Casey James sound once again. Casey is an extremely skilled guitarist with a fantastic voice, and I hope he makes some awesome music in the near future!
casey
Nearing more and more to the end of the night, it was time for runner-up Crystal Bowersox, who competed in the finale for the title of American Idol 2010. Crystal came on stage, extremely free and at ease with her guitar and trademark sunflower in her hair. She opened with “What’s Going On” and then went to “Come To My Window.” One thing I enjoyed about Crystal was her fearless personality; she is skilled with crowd interaction and seemed happy to take moments to talk to the crowd a bit, and even leaned down from the stage to hand her guitar pick to a fan; but know that, like at most concert these days, there was a “fence” of sorts separating the crowd a good bit away from the stage; far enough that leaning out from the stage would not be the easiest thing (picture from Twitter user). She continued her set, telling us that her next song was one that meant a lot to her, and putting down her guitar, sang “Up To The Mountain,” which she sang at the Idol finale (if she had won, it would have been her “coronation song”). She closed her set with Janis Joplin’s “Piece Of My Heart,” one of her slightly more upbeat selections from the night. Now, my one complaint (which is more of a “suggestion” than a complaint) is that I would have liked to have heard some more upbeat, rocked out songs from her set that night; though it was a good set and she played and sang great, I felt it leaned a bit too far towards the mellow side and got (I really hate to say it) slightly boring at moments; I think it would have done her set good if it had something like “Black Velvet” (performed at the finale), or if the band had given “Piece Of My Heart” a stronger arrangement; it was done with a more acoustic style, which sounded good, but considering how mellow the rest of the set was, I think it needed a bit more punch…but don’t take what I said the wrong way. I just think that with more songs like what I was suggesting, people could see more of Crystal’s capabilities. But like I said, it’s merely my personal opinion. I know Crystal’s style is usually more stripped down, and she should absolutely do what she loves! Crystal’s vocals were lovely, as always, and she’s a very talented artist!
crystal
Finally, it was the moment we’d all been waiting for…and DEFINITELY the moment I’d been waiting for! The lights were dimmed once again, bright red colors appeared on the screens, those little sounds that open U2’s “Beautiful Day” began to echo around the amphitheater, and the screams of the fans (myself included) only increased when the name and face of the 2010 American Idol winner Lee DeWyze showed up on the screen… finally, all lights were out, the man of the hour shouted an enthusiastic “Hello!” and was greeted by the wild and gleeful cheering of his fans (and by the way, all the lights came back on but his spotlight…until about a third of the way through the opening song, Lee was just a silhouette! We all cheered happily when the light finally turned on). For this show, I forsook my far away seats to go stand by a barrier near by the stage so I could watch and take better pictures of Lee during his opening song, and I am extremely glad I did! As guessed, he opened with “Beautiful Day,” his coronation song from the American Idol finale. Many may remember that on the show, he performed the song with the same arrangement as the original version by U2, but as it didn’t suit him greatly, a new, more acoustic/pop-influenced arrangement was composed after the finale that fit Lee’s vocals and style perfectly; an extremely wise idea with great results! He mellowed things down a bit with a fabulous performance Elton John’s “Rocket Man”; once again, arranged to fit his voice and style. He went on to play Leonard Cohen’s famous “Hallelujah,” performed the week before the Idol finale. Though this has to be one of the most covered songs in the history of music, I must say, Lee’s has to be one of the best versions of the song I’ve heard. The way his voice just tears out; it brings out how the song’s meant to be heard, with raw emotion and passion. Next was another one of Lee’s absolute best performances from American Idol, “Treat Her Like a Lady,” which, as he introduced it at the concert, “is a dancing song!”…and he was quite right. It was impossible not to dance. He was very interactive with the crowd, sang strong and consistently, and seemed to enjoy everything quite a bit himself! Still keeping things upbeat and epic, he closed his set with Kings Of Leon’s breakout hit “Use Somebody”; another fantastic song that suits Lee perfectly. He sang it beautifully, and performed with great enthusiasm. I would have loved to have heard and seen more of Lee, but the little show we got from him was, to use what seems to be one of his favorite words, “AMAZING.” (explanation HERE) Those of you who watched this year’s season of American Idol might remember him as seeming more laid back and sometimes “scared” during most of his performances, but let me tell you, his voice, performances and stage personality have grown like you would not believe. He genuinely loves his fans, and you can tell from watching him perform that he absolutely loves what he’s doing; I haven’t seen a lot of musicians that perform quite as passionately as he does. He doesn’t hold anything back; he seems to genuinely enjoy singing and performing, but remains very humble all the while. I absolutely cannot wait to hear the music he makes on his upcoming album (due to release in October). If his show on the American Idol tour with only five songs is this good, I can’t wait to see him in the future on his own!
lee
To my dismay, the fabulous night was now ending. Similar to what it’s like watching American Idol on TV, you’re looking forward to experiencing the many hours ahead of you, and finally, when they’ve all passed, you feel like it’s only just started and don’t know how time passed so quickly. So, right when Lee’s set ended, he and the rest of the guys from the top 10 quickly gathered together on stage and sang Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life” with strong harmonies and pulsing beats. Immediately, the guys left the stage and all the girls came and sang Kelly Clarkson’s “My Life Would Suck Without You,” but it wasn’t long before they were joined by Lee DeWyze, then, soon after, the rest of the guys joined the girls and the entire top 10 sang the song together. The harmonies were incredibly smooth and the performance was full of energy and fun. Everyone said their goodbyes, Lee and Crystal thanked the crowd, said goodnight, everyone exited the stage, the band ceased to play “My Life Would Suck Without You,” and a big marquee rolled across the screens saying “thank you,” “good night,” “American Idol Live tour 2010”, and all that good stuff, and the infinitely fun evening drew to a close.
top10
There are still some dates left on the tour, so if you have a chance, I highly recommend you catch one that comes near you! Check Live Nation for tickets! If you’re looking for an incredibly pleasant, enjoyable and ridiculously fun Summer evening, go to the American Idol Live tour this year! I promise it’s a great one!
Also, please do me a favor and check out the following…
Pictures from the concert
…and videos from the concert 🙂

Awakening Fest rocked!

So, I got to hear some awesome music and see some awesome bands yesterday at Awakening Fest! Headlined by TobyMac and co-headlined by BarlowGirl, it was a wonderful day! Before I say anymore, I’d like give a HUGE thank-you to my dad, without whom I could not have made it to Awakening Fest! Thank you, Daddy, for enduring the cold wind and pain and making it from early morning to late night. I enjoyed the time with you and I’m glad you enjoyed it too!
So, moving on, BarlowGirl put on an awesome show and sang just about every song I hoped for. As for TobyMac…well…let’s just say that he and his band put on the most amazing concert ever! I was completely blown away the first time I saw him back in 2005, but last night, he was even better, which I didn’t think could be possible! Overall, it was an amazing day, and the best parts were the moments where the crowds settled down and simply worshiped and sang to the Lord. If you’ve ever been to a large concert/event, it’s chilling and beautiful to hear hundreds of different people coming together to worship the same God.
I won’t say anymore now, because I’ll be working on the review, which I hope will come along okay, because I’m actually having a lot of trouble remembering everything right now. Hopefully it’ll all come back to me, though! But anyway, to tide you over ’til the review is done, I’ll let you see my pictures and videos!
Pictures
Videos
Btw, please excuse the lack of TobyMac pictures and videos. My camera ran out of space before his show, so I took my dad’s camera, which had only enough space left for two videos. Sorry! Hopefully there’ll be a next time, though 🙂
Oh, and I hope you like the new layout! Obviously, it’s themed with TobyMac, as it has lyrics from one of his songs and the logo of his latest album 😉 I figured it was time for a change and I thought this new one fit 🙂
Be back soon! 🙂

Delayed TobyMac concert videos

Do any of you here remember when I attended a TobyMac concert back in October ’05? Well, not all of you probably do, but you see, my dad took some awesome videos while we were there, and I knew I just had to share them with you all. Hope you like them!
TobyMac – DC Fest – October 7th, 2005 –
– Get This Party Started (view)
– Irene (view)
– In The Light (view)
– The end of “Your’s” and the beginning of “The Slam” (view)
– Na Na Hey Hey (view)
Hope you liked them! 🙂

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Finished the concert review!

My apologies for the awful delay, but my review of the Stellar Kart / Kutless / Newsboys concert I attended on 03/02 is finally finished and ready for viewing!
I separated the review into individual pages for your convenience, since I had a LOT to write about. There are pictures, videos, and a bit of audio, so be sure to check that out!
Obviously, I FINALLY changed the layout! I know it’s not very original, but I kind of like it! A lot of you might know that pink isn’t exactly my favorite color, but I just thought, if Stellar Kart can have a pink CD and a pink drumkit, I guess I can stand to have a pink website 😉
Oh, I got a Flickr account the other night. Spence has been trying to talk me into it for ages, so I finally had to do it ;-P Anyway, you can view that HERE.
Y’all enjoy the pictures, the videos, and the review!
PS: That’s weird…I’ve never said “y’all” before 😉

ShoutFest 2006

I went to ShoutFest 2006 yesterday and saw Fireflight, Flatfoot 56, DecembeRadio, and Krystal Meyers! You can find the review if you go to the Music section, and then click on Concerts. You can see pictures (and videos) in the gallery. Back soon!

Last minute surprise!

I still can’t believe it happened…so much sooner than I expected. The day before yesterday, I was thinking about how much I wanted to see a dc Talk concert someday (or a solo show). The next day (yesterday), I was out of the house with my mom and dad. I don’t remember how it happened, but my mom started asking, “when’s that DC Festival?”. I realized that it was the 8th, and there was only one word that could get out of my mouth: “TOBY”. So now, you’ve probably realized that we decided at the last minute to go see TobyMac (the festival was free). I’m so thankful I have a dad who was willing to go through mud, rain, the metro, and a foot that hurts quite a lot, to take me to see TobyMac. So yeah, thanks for every little thing, Daddy. You do too much. I don’t deserve you one bit!
So anyway, I’ll do my best to review the concert, however, it’s not going to be like my review of ShoutFest, because this time, I had trouble keeping track of some things.

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