Grace Notes
By Chris Crain

Casting Crowns will play at Broadbent Arena on the 8th of this month. At press time, there were still tickets available at Ticketmaster outlets. After only a month into the spring leg of the "Lifesong Tour," the show is reaching "landmark" success, according to the band's label, Reunion Records (the group is actually on an sister label of Reunion, Beach Street). To date, half of the eighteen markets where the band has played have sold out completely, including Nashville, Austin and Charlotte. The popular concert features Nichole Nordeman, plus Independence, Kentucky singer/songwriter Josh Bates and speaker Tony Nolan. Performing to more than 93,000 fans so far, the "Lifesong Tour" is shaping up to be one of the biggest bills in Christian music this year.

Promoter Richard Young sold more than 16,000 tickets combined for his shows in Charlotte and Raleigh. He notes "as a promoter, you always look forward to a tour and an artist that has tremendous buzz and excitement in the public arena. Casting Crowns and the "Lifesong Tour" delivered just that. It truly was the concert tour that no one wanted to miss. It just does not get more exciting than that."

The tour continues through May 8, with plans to reach a total of 46 markets in support of the band's Lifesong album. This spring run follows Casting Crowns' fall 2005 `Lifesong' leg, which pulled in more than 150,000 people over 38 dates.

The band has sold two million units in its two-year career. Lifesong, their sophomore release, has already produced its fourth consecutive career radio No.1 with title track "Lifesong" following mega hits "If We Are the Body," "Who Am I," and "Voice of Truth," all from the band's platinum-selling, self-titled debut record. The new single, "Praise You In This Storm," is now charting on multiple formats at Christian radio.

Casting Crowns was awarded their first trophy at the 48th Annual Grammy Awards at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The band received the award for Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) for Lifesong. Lead singer Mark Hall commented, "We were honored to represent Jesus and Christian music at the Grammy's this year along with the other nominees in our category. God is showing through us that He can do whatever He wants with whomever He chooses. Our prayer is that we pointed to Jesus tonight and this award is placed at His feet."

Lifesong debuted last August at No. 9 on Billboard's Top 200 Albums chart, one of only two Christian artists without crossover radio airplay to break the Top 10 on the Billboard chart in ten years. In spite of the group's phenomenal industry success, Mark Hall and the band remain focused on the ministry, with Mark still leading his youth group's 400 students each Wednesday night in Atlanta, Georgia, even while on tour.

Casting Crowns was recently honored by the Gospel Music Association (GMA) with multiple nominations in the upcoming 37th Annual GMA Music Awards, The band garnered five nominations as a group, lead singer Mark Hall grabbed another four and producer Mark A. Miller notched an additional three. The group also garnered nods in the top categories of Artist of the Year and Group of the Year, one of several categories they won at last year's awards. Casting Crowns was also nominated for their first American Music Award last fall.

That is a lot of accolades for a band that almost no one had even heard of in the summer of 2003. I love the band's music and plan on attending the Broadbent show this month. Tickets were still available at press time. If you can get one, I'll see you there!

Third Day brought their "Wherever You Are" Tour to the Louisville Palace on March 2. It marked the band's first appearance here since filming the DVD Live Wire in the summer of 2004. The show, which also featured the David Crowder Band, was a sell-out.

Louisville has always loved Third Day (at least as far back as I can remember - the first time I saw them here was in 1998) and is absolutely crazy about the David Crowder Band. Everyone I talked to had a great time that evening.

Crowder and company, who played to almost 9,000 at Southeast Christian Church last fall, opened the show and included several songs off of their latest release A Collision.

The 45-minute set flew by and I'm sure that some fans would have loved for them to play longer, however lead singer Crowder made another appearance later in the evening.

Third Day played for about two hours, including encores and showed why they are one of the most popular live acts in the industry. While they have received lots of airplay over the years from Adult Contemporary Christian radio (including the current #1 single "Cry Out To Jesus"), they come across as more of a straight-up rock band live. Comparisons to fellow Atlanta residents The Black Crowes are pretty accurate.

The Palace is one of the best places to see a live band in town (I prefer clubs, but once a band gets too big, the Palace would be my next choice). The sound was good that night - loud, but not so loud that you couldn't make out the music. It suited the band's style just right. Third Day played most of their biggest hits ("Cry Out to Jesus," "Your Love Oh Lord") and more rocking tunes ("Consuming Fire"). During an unplugged segment, they even took requests including "Blackbird," which I have to believe refers to the Crowes, and, of course, "Free Bird." The band played part of the Skynyrd classic, although Powell forgot the words after a minute or so.

Most of the Crowder Band reappeared on stage for an upbeat version of Hank Williams' "I'll Fly Away." Before playing the song, Mac Powell challenged Crowder to leg wrestle him on stage. I suspect that many in the crowd were as surprised as I was when Crowder agreed. The two lay down on stage, locked legs and "wrestled" three times. Crowder seemed to be the winner, although it was hard to see from my vantage point and the crowd roar drowned out any verdict given over the microphone.

The night wasn't all "fun" however and wasn't even just about the music, as bassist Tai Anderson explained after Crowder's set. He told the crowd that just a few weeks before the tour started, he traveled to Africa with the relief organization World Vision and spent time with the "night children." Some of these boys and girls in Uganda walk for hours in the darkness, fleeing their homes, to avoid being snatched away and forced to join local militia. This terrible reality has been documented in a new film called "Invisible Children." You can get more details and find out how to help at U of L is showing the film on the 14th of this month at Floyd Theatre.