Grace Notes
By Chris Crain

Christian music's most popular "girl group" (OK, so they're not "girls" anymore - they're Moms now) was in concert on August 20 at Cardinal Stadium. Point of Grace was the headliner for this year's annual Kentucky State Fair "free" Christian Concert.

A crowd of about 4,000 was on hand to see the ladies (Shelley Breen, Terry Jones, Denise Jones, and Heather Payne). Though smaller than last year's crowd of 6,000+ that turned out for Jaci Velasquez and Plus One, the people in attendance made a lot of noise and seemed to be singing every word to every song. Point of Grace is very popular with women, but thousands of men were attendance as well. All ages were present too, as the group managed to appeal to everyone from 5-year-old girls to middle-aged men.

Kentucky is know for it's unpredictable weather, but that night at Cardinal Stadium, it couldn't have been much better, with partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the lower 70's. The ladies strutted onstage, dressed in black, about 8:30 PM. A four-piece band accompanied them.

The group opened with "Begin With Me" from their latest release, Free To Fly. Though not a radio single, the crowd sang along with "Begin With Me" as though they'd heard it many times. It's no surprise Free To Fly is the top-selling contemporary Christian album of the year so far. "Better Days," another lesser- known song from 1998's Steady On, followed. Up next was one of their 23 #1 songs, "The Song Is Alive." The group went on to sing many of those #1 songs, including "Blue Skies," "Saving Grace," "Gather At The River," and "The Wonder Of It All." They sang fifteen songs in all, including an encore, the #1 hit "Faith Hope And Love." The concert wrapped up around 10 p.m.

I've seen Point Of Grace live in concert on a couple of occasions, and I don't remember them ever sounding better. Shelley Breen did confess to having some vocal strain due to singing in several gigs in a row. I couldn't tell the strain when the group sang. Their vocals almost had a studio quality (and no, they don't lip-sync). Though they sing some upbeat songs, the ladies move little on stage, keeping choreography to a minimum. The focus is definitely on the music and the message. In some ways you could say, if you've seen them once, you've seen them 1,000 times. However, their refusal to jump on the latest trends has kept their fan base very loyal (and large). And though you know what to expect at a Point of Grace concert, the group's talent at singing without the aid of any studio magic is impressive.

If there was any surprise of the night, it would have probably been when one of the ladies' small sons nearly walked over the edge of the stage. The group's children, all young boys, joined them at one point to be introduced to the crowd. Moments later as they were leaving the stage, one of them (Denise's son?) decided to walk the opposite way, down the long runway in front of the center microphone. The crowd gasped as the boy appeared oblivious to the fact he was nearing the end of the stage. Several people from the media area rushed forward to catch the boy, who was snatched up by a member of Point of Grace (I'm not sure who) at the last moment. Shelley joked about it, saying "Lawsuit!" The little tyke had no clue anything was wrong and the concert rolled on.

Local group Calling Levi opened the show at 8 p.m. I had never seen them live (in fact I'd never heard of them until just a couple of months ago). They sang `praise and worship' in a style similar to groups such as Caedmon's Call. Opening for Point of Grace was an amazing opportunity for the group, who were very well-received. They even got a "shout-out" from Shelley Breen, who said she had talked with them before the show and thought they did a great job.

Major Concert Announcement

For the second time this year, one of Christian music's most celebrated bands is coming to Louisville. The dc Talk "Solo" tour will be at Broadbent Arena on October 8. Toby McKeehan ("Toby Mac"), Michael Tait (no nickname required) and Kevin Max ("Kmax") will perform material from both their solo and group releases.

Tait's solo release Empty came out July 3 and features the hit "All You Got." The album has almost a classic rock feel at times and features Pete Stewart (guitars), Chad Chapin (drums) and Lonnie Chapin (bass). No word yet on whether or not the band will accompany dc Talk for Michael's solo material.

Kmax's solo release, Stereotype Be, came out August 28 and is my favorite of the solo material I've heard. Kevin has said before that he likes to "push people's buttons" and in the process has alienated some fans. Don't let his personality stop you from listening to the record. It sort of sounds like Alice in Chains meets Depeche Mode with a little U2 thrown in the mix. If that doesn't make any sense, just go out and buy the CD. It's good.

Toby Mac's Momentum is due out next month. It marks a return to the hip-hop style dc Talk was know for in the early stages of their career. There are exceptions on the record, such as "Extreme Days," which is featured on the dc Talk Solo EP and the soundtrack to the movie of the same name. In that song, Toby Mac sounds like Fred Durst and his band sounds exactly like Limp Bizkit. Despite that, it's actually kind of cool.

Dc Talk was just here in June for the Greater Louisville Billy Graham Crusade Of Course that night was an abbreviated set. The concert scheduled for October 8 is the real deal. If you've never seen dc Talk, check `em out. The show is comparable to a mainstream rock show; the difference is dc Talk sings a Christian message.

Tickets went on sale August 25 and are available through Ticketmaster. The last time the group had a full-length concert here was at Louisville Gardens in March of 1999. That show sold out, so get your tickets now. Hope to see you there.