Grace Notes
By Chris Crain

Last month I talked about 4Him and Clay Crosse (they were scheduled to play at Valley View Church January 31st). So this month I'll finally look back at 2002.

While 2001 boasted the biggest Christian event of the last forty years, The Greater Louisville Billy Graham Crusade (featuring Michael W. Smith, dc Talk, Kirk Franklin and many others), 2002 had some very "high-profile" Christian music events.

One of the first events coming to mind is Michael W. Smith's taping of his live album Worship Again.Smith returned to Southeast Christian Church July 19 to record his second live "worship" CD. The event was called a "worship event," not a concert. Michael brought his band to the church and played for about two hours. It was interesting to attend the Louisville event, because it wasn't a "concert" per se. For one thing, it was free (an offering was taken to help defray some of the costs). Also, due to the nature of the live recording, children under 5 were not admitted. "Overflow seating" was provided in a Fellowship Hall and in the Chapel with live audio/video feed. People were encouraged to carpool with family and friends because of the large crowd expected (over 11,000 were on hand).

The album ended up selling over 50,000 copies it's first week out, enough to land it in the top 20 of the Billboard Albums Chart. Not surprisingly, Louisville was the #1 city in America for sales.

The album recording marked Smith's second appearance at Southeast in 2002. In April, he led Wednesday night worship. Smith was so impressed with the church he decided to record there.

Steven Curtis Chapman also stopped in Louisville last year. He played a pair of amazing shows on September 19 and 20 at The Palace. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I believe this to be the greatest Contemporary Christian music tour ever.

Chapman was fantastic, singing many of his biggest hits ("The Great Adventure," "Dive," "I Will Be Here"). But what made the tour like no other were the featured special guests, missionary Steve Saint and Waodani tribal member Mincaye. Their incredible story was shared through their own words and a 25-minute "multi-media experience" featuring footage from the upcoming film documentary, "Beyond The Gates Of Splendor." Chapman provided music and narration.

Saint is the founder of I-TEC, an organization teaching indigenous people and son of martyred missionary Nate Saint. Nate Saint died with Jim Elliott and three other missionaries in Ecuador in 1956 when Mincaye and five other Auca warriors attacked and killed them.

The effect the tour had was astounding with comments coming in daily from radio, retail, media and concertgoers. Both Saint and Mincaye appeared together those nights at The Palace. When each man walked out on to the stage, you could hear an audible gasp from the audience, then thunderous applause. The level of forgiveness and compassion Saint and his family have shown seemed to impact everyone in the venue those nights.

Third Day, arguably the most popular band in Contemporary Christian music, also played in Louisville in 2002. The Atlanta-based band brought their hugely popular "Come Together" tour to Broadbent Arena on April 17. About 4500 people were on hand for the concert, which marked Third Day's third Louisville appearance in just over a year.

I've seen Third Day play several times over the years and have been impressed with their unusual way of mixing rock and roll with praise and worship. Other bands have tried it before, but has it ever worked this well? I don't think so. However, this tour has taken the band's live performance to a whole new level. Third Day has arrived where few other Christian bands have gone: arena rock. Dc Talk has done it, The Newsboys, maybe Jars Of Clay. What I mean by "arena rock" is that they are putting on a full-fledged rock show comparable to anything in so-called "mainstream" music. It's big. It's loud. It's an experience. These are memorable shows, the kind where you keep the ticket stub forever and remember different aspects of the show for years to come.

Third Day (Mac Powell - vocals, Brad Avery - guitar, Mark Lee - guitar, Tai Anderson - bass, David Carr - drums) sounded the best I've ever heard them, putting on a two-hour show that had the crowd rocking that night. From older songs like "Consuming Fire" (the first song they ever played as a group) to new ones like "Show Me Your Glory," the band poured non-stop energy into the performance.

It was obvious how the group has changed over the years. Early material like "Fire" rings of the early `90's era of Seattle grunge. I can remember calling Third Day "Eddie Vedder and the Blowfish" when I first started hearing them. After the release of their third album Time, which was recorded in Atlanta, maybe "Hootie and the Crowes" would have been more accurate. While "Glory," though a rock tune, showed the band's new tendency towards a praise and worship style. That style, mixing rock and praise, has launched the band into Christian music "stardom," as it were. All ages and all religious flavors seem to like this band. Christian radio hits like "God Of Wonders" and "Your Love Oh Lord" had the crowd practically hypnotized, with nearly every hand in the building raised, swaying back and forth. It could have been a church service.

The night has its light moments as well. Towards the end of the show Powell said that the band was going play a `new song,' then launched into Willie Nelson's "On The Road Again." Opening artists Bebo Norman and The Paul Colman Trio joined in.

Another big concert that hit the area was the "Celebration 2002" event at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom. Jars of Clay and Jennifer Knapp played to over 4,000 fans in the "Batman" Amphitheatre in the park. The show was excellent and I was there for every minute, but I was battling a fever all day (by the next morning it had reached 104 degrees). So I apologize if I did don't recall too much about it - I was frying inside.

The crowd seemed to love it and it was great to see one of Christian music's biggest bands live in Louisville. Interesting side note: Audio Adrenaline's Tyler Burkhum was also on hand to play with the group.

It was a big year for Christian music in Louisville, we'll see with 2003 holds. Look for the scoop here in LMN.