Grace Notes
By Chris Crain

The first big Christian music event of 2002 took place January 20th at The Palace. Interestingly, it wasn't a concert. It was "Fusion."

As I told you last month, "Fusion" wasn't promoted as a concert, but as a "worship event." And that's exactly what it was. I mean, no one even announced any names during the event. It was a church service really, only maybe louder and a little more "expressive" than you would probably be used to on a Sunday morning.

The Palace was packed that night, "sold out," in fact. I use quotes around the words "sold out" because tickets were free. But you did have to present a ticket to get in, and all of them vanished from area Christian bookstores within about a week, much faster than many people expected, including some of those putting on the event.

At 7 p.m., two large screens flashed a ninety second countdown to showtime. When the counter hit zero, the crowd roared, and a worship band hit the stage. As I mentioned, no names were announced, not even a name for the band was announced. The band consisted of musicians from various churches in Kentuckiana.

The atmosphere in the audience was electric, actually closer to a rock concert than a church service. The crowd sang along to each song, following lyrics displayed on the large on-stage screens. The band played praise and worship tunes such as "You Are Worthy," "Trading My Sorrows," "Did You Feel The Mountains Tremble," "You Are Holy" and others. Even more traditional songs like "When I Survey The Wondrous Cross" were covered. What surprises some people is how much the youth of today respond to this music. The same Christian kids that are listening to P.O.D. or even Creed are enjoying this music, at least in a live setting.

In the middle of the band's set, Chuck Jeter of Youth for Christ (and former Grace Notes Columnist) appeared on stage and gave an emotional endorsement of the event. He said that he believed that events like "Fusion" were what God wanted, for the church to be "one."

After that the band played a few more songs, and left the stage. What followed brought The Palace to a hushed silence. In honor of Martin Luther King's Birthday, which was observed the next day, footage of his "I Have A Dream" speech was shown. Along with snippets of the speech, shocking footage of racial strife was shown. Film shot during the `60s showed police and others beating black people and spraying them with hoses. It was a stark contrast to joyous celebration that had just been taking place.

Main speaker Stacey Foster (once again, no name announced), then appeared and gave a fiery and impassioned message about reconciliation. Foster, himself a black minister, preached about coming together through racial, socio-economic and denominational boundaries. He also said that Christians must take on the "posture of a learner" and have humility before reconciliation can occur. At the close, he gave a traditional invitation for those in the audience to become Christians. Several in the audience acknowledged making that decision.

That was "Fusion," other that the band playing a few more songs. John Stamper of New Albany's Graceland Baptist Church did appear onstage to initiate an offering to help cover expenses (he said it was costing Fusion personnel $11,000 to put on the event).

Chuck told me that organizers hope to have a "Fusion" event each month. I'll keep you posted.

Major Concert Announcement: Third Day brings their "Come Together" tour to Broadbent Arena April 18. The group, who had one of the most successful tours of 2001, is bringing Bebo Norman and The Phil Coleman Trio as opening acts. Tickets go on sale March 1 through Ticketmaster.

True Vibe was in concert January 16 at Campbellsville Baptist Church in Campbellsville, Kentucky. It was a "homecoming" of sorts for the pop group, which features Campbellsville native Nathan Gaddis. Much of his extended family was on hand for the event. Founding member Jonathan Lippman is a Cincinnati native whose parents were in attendance as well.

The group sang for about an hour and a half to a crowd of over 1200 that night. The concert, which was sponsored by Campbellsville University, was sold out a week after tickets went on sale. University officials tried to secure a venue for a second night but were unsuccessful. A spokesperson told me that the ticket demand was probably twice the size of the audience members at the church that night.

The crowd that was on hand for the concert that evening was, in a word, loud. Really loud. True Vibe is a "boy band" (Lippman was also a founding member of the pop group 98 Degrees). If you've never been to a concert by a "boy band," you've probably never heard a crowd reaction quite like that. Just imagine the footage you've seen and heard of the crowd during the Beatles first appearance on the Ed Sullivan show. You get the picture.

However, although there was a lot of high-pitched screaming from teen and preteen girls, there were a lot of teenage guys, as well as older Moms and Dads in the audience that night. And the crowd seemed to be hanging the group's every word.

True Vibe sang all of their Christian radio hits, "Now And Forever," "You Found Me" and the current "You Are The Way." They also sang other songs from their self-titled debut, including "Never Again" and the encore "Jump, Jump, Jump" (do I need to tell you what the crowd looked like during that song?).

The crowd was loudest when the guys in the group held a "dance contest." As Kirk Franklin's "Revolution" played over the loudspeakers, audience volunteers (including Lippman's father) "danced" in order to win True Vibe merchandise. The contestants' ages ranged from under 10 to over 60. The crowd loved it.

The most powerful part of the night however was when the group slowed things down, way down and led the crowd in a time of praise and worship. Nathan played piano and sang, as the other members, Lippman, Jordan Roe and Jason Barton sang and spoke to the audience. Roe spoke passionately about the gospel, urging those in the crowd to follow Christ. Barton talked about the events of September 11 and the impact they had on the group, reminding them that life is short and to live each day to the fullest.

So True Vibe started 2002 back at home (at least for Gaddis). The concert follows an unforgettable 2001 for the group, with an amazing amount of mainstream exposure as well as strong support from Christian radio. The group is headed back to the studio in the coming months to start work on their sophomore release.