Winter Jam Tour: Sidewalk Prophets Review

So here on Spin: The Blog it is not a very well-kept secret that I am a mega-fan of the Sidewalk Prophets.  It is sort of a joke (but not seriously) that when the Sidewalk Prophets come to New Haven in June for Canal Days to play at our Faith & Family Night that the biggest threat to security will be me, and I’m the one who signed the contract for them to come and is in charge of the entire festival’s entertainment stage.  (I promise to be on my best, most professional behavior on June 8th, Girl Scout’s honor; and if not, I’m sure the police will have their tasers charged up and ready to go!)

Anyhow, my BFF Sarah and I were excited to see the Sidewalk Prophets at Winter Jam, and we were curious to see how they would adapt the longer show we are used to seeing to a shorter format.  (Sarah and I were guessing they would have maybe 15-20 minutes on stage.)  The Sidewalk Prophets pretty much stuck to a montage of crowd-pleasing favorites:  my all-time favorite song of favorite songs, You Love Me Anyway, The Words I Would Say, and Live Like That.  In a surprising twist, they bypassed completely their newest single, Help Me Find It, and instead closed out the show with the rollicking good Love Love Love that is accompanied by an appropriately awesome Lego-esque video.

Honestly, I thought that was a pretty sound move; I really like the song Help Me Find It and thought it was a good choice for the follow-up single to Live Like That.  In concert, however, Help Me Find It is one of the longer songs because of the way they work the intro to give lead singer Dave Frey the opportunity to showcase some of his vocal chops.  Winter Jam isn’t really the format for that kind of thing, though; it’s more like speed dating, where you’ve got the equivalent of 30 seconds to bring out your razzle dazzle before moving along to make room for the next big thing.  With that being said, you probably can’t go wrong with a song that features a Legos video and lyrics that incorporate Chuck Norris and Star Wars.  Everybody likes Legos, Chuck Norris, and Star Wars; plus, it’s decidedly unique for a video/song lyric combo.

Enough about that, though.  I’m going to tell you the most important point that I want to make in this review, and I’ve been thinking about this for a while now, even before Winter Jam when Sarah and I were discussing how we thought the Sidewalk Prophets would adjust their show to fit in the allotted time.  At some point last year, when I was in the midst of attending the 100+ concerts I saw in 2012, it occurred to me that only one group/band/artist/whatever you want to call it always made a point of always physically bringing the word of God out onto the stage in the middle of a concert.

Only one group.  Always.  Every time.

If you guessed that group was the Sidewalk Prophets, you would be correct.

I found that I really looked forward to that portion of a Sidewalk Prophets concert, and that it really added something special and meaningful to each and every show.

I can’t begin to tell you all how glad I was at Winter Jam when Dave brought the trusty old Bible out and started in with the words that are now almost familiar to me.  That part of the concert could have very easily been scrapped to squeeze in another song, but instead it almost felt like the whole show was revamped to be built around that moment with the Bible.

Really, isn’t the truths contained in the Bible what Winter Jam’s ultimately all about anyway?

I’m pretty sure it is, which is why I think this alone speaks very highly of the integrity and genuineness of the Sidewalk Prophets.

Of course, I should probably confess that as soon as I saw the Bible start to come out, I looked at Sarah and said, “Told you so!”  Perhaps that wasn’t one of my finer moments, but who doesn’t like to be proven right every once in a while?  Okay, so maybe just me.  My bad.

It certainly goes without saying that the quality of the Sidewalk Prophets musicianship at Winter Jam was stellar (as usual!), so I won’t drag this review on for any longer than necessary.  This is how I see it:  Royal Tailor may have more flair in the fashion department, TobyMac may well be kind of an icon, and Red quite literally set the stage on fire, but my favorite performance of the night by a considerable margin was the Sidewalk Prophets.  I think you’ll agree with me that once you’ve seen them in concert, there is something very special about this group of guys.  If you haven’t seen them in concert and don’t have either of their CD’s, then I have to ask…what are you waiting for?!  Christmas was last month!  (Preview their latest album, Live Like That, below on Spotify!)

Winter Jam Tour–Jamie Grace Review

 

I think Jamie Grace deserves major props for being the lone female artist representing at Winter Jam. For only being 21, she really went out there and killed it with the poise and grace of someone 10 years her senior. My BFF Sarah and I agreed that she really deserved something special for this review, and Sarah jokingly said (at least I’m pretty sure she was joking) that I should write an ‘ode’ to Jamie Grace. Traditionally, I think an ode was either a poem or a song, and believe me, Jamie Grace (along with the rest of the free world) does not want me writing or singing a song; a poem, however, I thought I could do.

So, for this review of Jamie Grace’s Winter Jam performance I have written the first ever (and only one I ever intend to write) acrostic poem for Spin: The Blog. It’s pretty bad, but that should in no way reflect poorly on Jamie Grace; I thought she was really great at Winter Jam! Maybe I should have tried writing a limerick instead…

J-is for Jazzy, so lively and bright
A-is for Artistic, with natural skill
M-is for Music, her gift to the world
I-is for Irresistible, her music, that is
E-is for Effervescent, so bubbly and sweet

G-is for God’s Girl, from the top of her head to the soles of her feet
R-is for Radiant, God’s light shining in her
A-is for Awesome; need I say more?
C-is for Christian, the heart of who she is
E-is for Eclectic, a fun mix of randomness

And there you have it: What is most likely the world’s worst acrostic poem ever! At least I took a few good pictures…enjoy them!

Winter Jam Tour–Newsong Review

Prior to Winter Jam, I was talking to my Mom and telling her that I had a writing assignment and would be going to the show.  Being a Mom, she wanted to know who all was going to be there.  I started down the list, “TobyMac, Sidewalk Prophets, Matthew West, Jamie Grace, Red, Royal Tailor, Jason Castro, Newsong…”

“Newsong?”  My Mom perked up.  “I don’t know any of those other groups, but I know Newsong.  Russ Lee, that’s one man that can really sing!” said my Mom.

Now, I’m not entirely sure because I’ve never seen this happen before, but I think in that moment my mother may have swooned an eensy little bit.

I wasn’t sure which to be more embarrassed by:  the fact that my mother may have just swooned, or the fact that my mother doesn’t know who TobyMac is.

With my mother’s endorsement of Newsong ringing in my ears, my BFF Sarah and I headed off to Winter Jam the next day.  I may have suffered some emotional regression during this time, because I sort of felt like a teenager who couldn’t possibly like the same music as her mother.   I’m going to be completely honest here:  I planned to take a concession stand/potty break during the Newsong portion of the concert because, and I’m being real here, if my Mom doesn’t even know who any of my favorite bands are, how reliable of a judge can she really be about who’s a good singer anyways?

Well, the time came for Newsong to play and wouldn’t you know that just as I was about to duck out, something of a technological nature went awry on stage.  After attending many a concert in my lifetime, let me let you in on a little secret:  it’s very revealing to watch what happens when things breakdown on stage during a performance.  Very revealing.  As a writer and avid people watcher, I can’t possibly walk away from the potential reality stage drama that could ensue during a meltdown of this magnitude.

Alas, the Newsong guys proved to be real pros, and whatever the problem was it only took 10 minutes or so to fix.  By then, I was into taking some pictures with the neat lighting they had going on up on the stage.

Keep in mind, at this point I still knew nothing about Newsong other than my Mom’s glowing words of praise.  I had to admit that they had a rich, robust sound and vibrant harmonies.  The first soloist to step out on the stage extension I mistakenly assumed was the guy my Mom had referred to as Russ Lee, because, well, he too could sing.  He was also easy on the camera lens, and I could see why my Mom would swoon over those cheekbones and shaggy blonde hair.  (I still have no idea what this guy’s name is, but Sarah informed me he was not Russ Lee.  Apparently, Russ Lee was the emcee of the Q&A session at the beginning of the afternoon, but that somehow managed to slip past me.  It would seem a lot was slipping past me during Winter Jam on January 20th.)

Then, Russ Lee took to the stage extension, and I have to admit, for once my Mom was right.  The man can sing!  (I won’t mention that he looks like a younger version of my Dad, because he did, and that in itself was kind of weird.  I guess we all know what my Mom’s type is now!)

You know, I really wasn’t expecting much from Newsong simply because of my Mom, so I ended up being very pleasantly surprised.  I totally loved the rousing Gospel trio sing along that I’m surprised didn’t blow the roof off the Coliseum during Newsong’s performance.  It was wicked good in a religious sort of way; and, for the record, I was raised in a Lutheran church so Gospel music is the equivalent of the German language to me.  I don’t understand very much of it, but when it’s done right, I can feel the emotion of it all the way down to my bones.  I also liked the new music they played so much so that I pre-ordered two of their new album, Swallow the Ocean, one for me and one for Mom.  (I’m not a pre-orderer, so this is kind of a big deal for me.)

So kids, the moral of this story is, if your parents happen to tell you before you go to Winter Jam that they love Newsong, don’t let that mislead you.  You have my completely honest and unbiased opinion that Newsong is very awesome and very cool so even though our parents may like them too, so save your trip to the concession stand/potty for the intermission  (there is an intermission…I forget when exactly, but I do remember there is one!)

Winter Jam Tour–Royal Tailor Review

If a was a gambler, one of the groups I would have bet the house on to put on a dazzling, crowd-pleasing, high energy show at Winter Jam that would not be soon forgotten was the band Royal Tailor.  I’ve seen Royal Tailor twice before, and I have a sneaking suspicion that when TobyMac wrote the song “Steal My Show” he was really talking about the guys from Royal Tailor because they definitely have some show stealing worthy talent.  (Just kidding about the TobyMac thing—I actually love the true meaning behind tobyMac’s Steal My Show!)

If I had gambled my house on Royal Tailor’s Fort Wayne Winter Jam performance on January 20th, I would have won it back—and then some.  Royal Tailor, which is made up of lead vocalist Tauren Wells, DJ Cox on guitar and backing vocals, Blake Hubbard on bass guitar and backing vocals, and Jarrod Ingram on drums, put on a spectacular performance at Winter Jam.  Soaring, and at time dueling, guitar solos compliments of DJ and Blake, combined with Tauren’s fiery lead vocals and a-m-a-z-i-n-g dance moves and Jarrod’s solid work on the drums drove the crowd to near insanity levels.

It was super fun!

Red may have brought real fire, but Royal Tailor quite literally lit the place up with their raw musical talent and emotionally provoking, inspired song lyrics.  I also have to give Royal Tailor kudos for being, at least in my humble opinion, the best dressed bunch of the night.

Seriously, folks, these guys have not just style, but flair.

Anyways, I think I took a bazillion pictures of Royal Tailor during their performance and they pretty much all turned out awesome.  Enjoy!  (And by all means, if you ever get the chance to go see Royal Tailor in concert anywhere, GO!!!)

Jason Castro: Winter Jam 2013 Review

Jason Castro was the third and final act of the Winter Jam Pre-Jam Party.  I have to say that every critique that I had of Jason Castro after his performance at the Star 88.3 Music Stage last July is no longer applicable.  If it wasn’t for his trademark dreds, and him having the same name and singing the same songs, I wouldn’t have known it was the same person.  Jason Castro was in great voice, and seemed at ease on stage.  He put on a really nice performance, although in my opinion it could have been a tad longer 🙂

For real, I’m not sure what more I can really say about Jason Castro that I haven’t already said in the last month.  I think he’s come a long, long way as a musician and a performer, and in terms of big name recognition acts at Winter Jam, he’s definitely one that most people will recognize if only because of his participation on American Idol.

My two pieces of advice are this:  First, if you’re only going to buy one CD in January, it should be Castro’s recently released Only a Mountain. 

Second, you know if you are going to Winter Jam and not splurging on a Jam Nation Pass ($50 and available at the Winter Jam website), you need to get to the venue super early, right?  Like 4-6 hours before the pre-jam party, right?  I know that seems like a long wait, but trust me, you don’t want to end up a Winter Jam Reject; and, getting to the show 6 hours in advance means you won’t miss seeing Jason Castro in the Pre-Jam Party, so it’s a win/win situation!  (One more thing—even if you get a Jam Nation Pass, you still want to get to the venue early—at least 2 hours before the Jam Nation doors open if you want a good seat!)

(On a completely random side note—as I was editing my photos from Winter Jam today, I noticed something I didn’t notice when I was actually at Winter Jam…Jason Castro’s drummer was a familiar face:  Justin from the Sidewalk Prophets!  How I missed that considering I took at least a hundred pictures during Jason Castro’s set I’m not sure.  What I am sure of is that Justin is one of the hardest working drummer’s on tour; he played with City Harbor on the Hundred More Years Tour last fall in addition to his regular duties with the Sidewalk Prophets.  Now he’s playing with Jason Castro; maybe I should put up a poll as to who Justin should tour with next? 🙂 Besides the Sidewalk Prophets, of course!)