Music Builds Tour - Third Day, Switchfoot, Jars of Clay, Robert Randolph & the FamilySeptember 12th, 2008 Virginia Beach, VA
Review and photos by Susan Lloyd
What happens when you combine kick drums, hammers, power saws and power chords? Well, you get the Music Builds Tour, of course! Plans to launch the fall tour that supports Habitat for Humanity were announced in the spring of this year. The tour features multiplatinum selling artists Third Day and Switchfoot but also includes fan favorite Jars of Clay and mainstream sensation Robert Randolph and the Family Band. When tour plans were first announced, it seemed almost idealistic to blend the musical styles of mainstream alt rock, swampy pedal steel funk and Christian rock within the same show and expect fans to give their full support. But the point and purpose of the tour was made clear from the outset. Chad Butler, drummer for Switchfoot, issued a statement in May saying
“…we are proud to announce our involvement in one of the most diverse lineups we've ever been a part of. We dreamed up the The Music Builds Tour along with a few friends of ours whose main commonality is a dream to see this world change for the better. Different bands, different backgrounds, one goal: A traveling festival to raise money and awareness for Habitat for Humanity.”
The twenty-two city tour has been running since late August and will finish up in early October, making stops in each band’s home town as the tour progresses. I was more than eager to attend ANY show on the tour to get a taste of what had the potential to be one of the most significant tours of the year and made arrangements to hit the show at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Virginia Beach, VA.
Power rock band Red joined the ticket at the Va. beach stop for the first of eight shows, and unfortunately for me, their set began at 5:30. With no advance warning of an earlier start time, I missed a large portion of their 20 minute set, but was able to catch their last song. In spite of the fact that the venue was less than a quarter full, there was no stage production worth mentioning, and the audience was largely unfamiliar with their work, Red filled up the vastness of the venue with massive guitar riffs and even bigger music muscle. They positively “left everything” on the stage and saved their huge hit Breathe into Me for last. Front man Michael Barnes, flanked by twin brothers Randy and Anthony Armstrong, tore through the song with immense power and conviction. Guitarist Jasen Rauch added his own flair by throwing his guitar into a spin around his neck on more than one occasion. Red is genuine and one of the most intense rock acts around. Hearing one fan comment at its conclusion that “there was some major testosterone on that stage,” it occurred to me that Red may have won over many in the stands based solely on the immense stage power they project.
Next up was Jars of Clay, markedly less intense than Red but every bit as enthusiastic about performing on this tour. The band took to the stage dressed in white from head to toe and all were sporting dark sunglasses. The contrast against Red was striking, not only because of the musical style difference, but also because Red had chosen to wear all black for their portion of the show. Front man Dan Haseltine took full command of the stage early on in the set by belting out Jars’ newest release, entitled “Closer”. Haseltine was mesmerizing to watch and while he was surrounded by talented band mates, the showmanship responsibilities belonged solely to him. Haseltine announced that the band would be releasing a new CD in March and led the band in playing another new song which I believe to be entitled “On the Inside”. Slightly more edgy and atmospheric than previous Jars selections, the song was very well received by the audience. Throughout their set, the huge light panels behind the band had been fairly benign, but when Jars launched into their hit, “Dead Man”, and the crowd eagerly responded by belting out the lyrics, the light panel came to life by illuminating large strips of multicolored light. Jars of Clay played a solid set and die hard Jars fans were thrilled with their performance. A shade more audience participation would have pushed their time on stage to the next level, mirroring the energy created later by Switchfoot and Third Day.
Robert Randolph and his amazing band of exceedingly talented musicians began their set with a crowd that seemed to be scratching their heads in confusion. Randolph plays a mean pedal steel guitar, but not too many in the crowd seemed to know exactly what he was doing, and I’m sure even fewer knew of the respect Randolph has garnered in both the mainstream and the Christian music industry. Mild confusion gave way to full appreciation throughout the set, however, as Randolph’s “little sister” provided powerhouse vocals to one selection skillfully weaving her vocal lines in and around Randolph’s incredible guitar solos. Randolph’s backing band stunned the crowd as they sailed through some of the most intricate musical improvisation I’ve ever seen from a large venue stage. Randolph’s set list also included “March” which he introduced as a worship song that he used to play growing up in his church. The instrumental “March” morphed into a rowdy version of “When the Saints go Marching In” bringing several fans to their feet. The highly engaging Robert Randolph closed his set by inviting concert goers to clap, stomp and scream in response to a rocking number that got people moving. Randolph’s cousin Danyel led the way through the call and response song with a vibrant falsetto and a thumping slap bass. I enjoyed watching several in attendance loosen up and do exactly as Randolph had invited them to do. The set may have begun with some questioning on behalf of concert goers, but Randolph et al won them over and was awarded with a rousing standing ovation as he thanked the crowd, made his enthusiastic pitch for Habitat, and exited the stage.
With the crowd of nearly 10,000 now ready to rock, Switchfoot hit the stage in dramatic fashion with drummer Chad Butler pounding out the tempo to set the teaser intro for “Meant to Live”. As the rest of his bandmates joined him on stage, they quickly went into the opening bars of “Oh! Gravity”, leaving “Meant to Live” to be played in its entirety at the end of the set. The frenetic crowd got a little louder when keyboardist Jerome Fontamillas took up his guitar and joined brothers Jon and Tim Foreman and lead guitarist Drew Shirley in order to line the front of the stage providing for a formidable image of musical power. Switchfoot’s stage show is always electrifying, and front man Jon Foreman is a large reason for that. This night’s show was no exception as Foreman jumped off a large amp at the end of crowd favorite “Gone”, ran through the crowd as he closed “On Fire”, and began “Awakening” by standing in the middle of the venue and joining hands with nearby fans. Throughout the night, Foreman would stand on amps, jump off the stage, and lovingly hang on the necks of band mates, all the while passionately pouring his heart into each lyric he belted out. Gorgeous lighting was used throughout the set and effectively set the tone for each song the band had chosen to play. A blanket of tiny white lights covered the entire back wall of the stage when Switchfoot performed their most recent hit “This is Home”. Foreman introduced the song saying that it had special significance for the evening since he and brother Tim had lived in Virginia Beach when they were children. Switchfoot was joined for this song and for the set closer “Dare you to Move” by a beautiful violinist by the name of Anne Marie Calhoun. The crowd was completely energized by the opening strains of “Meant to Live” and enthusiastically joined Foreman by singing along when he held the mic outward inviting them to be a larger part of the night. There is no question that purpose has a great deal to do with the enthusiasm Switchfoot exhibited while on stage and Habitat for Humanity is an organization that obviously has their full support.
The crowd gave a lot of love to the guys in Switchfoot, but no question they still had plenty of enthusiasm left for closing act Third Day. Third Day has enjoyed a long and very high profile career in the Christian music arena, and their set gave every indication as to why they have been so well loved for such a long time. Front man Mac Powell and bandmates opened the set with “Tunnel”, obviously a crowd favorite. But with a discography and hit list as long as TD’s, these guys have no trouble making a set list from popular songs. Powell’s vocals were dead on throughout the set, and truthfully, I’ve never heard him when he wasn’t in great voice. Just like touring mate Jon Foreman, Powell showed an infectious enthusiasm onstage and had impeccable showmanship. The large lighted screen at the back of the stage was in full use throughout the set as various images were flashed during different songs. TD showcased several songs from their new CD Revelation, including the title track. Powell did an informal survey of the crowd and asked how many of them already owned the CD and congratulated the Virginia fans for having the highest percentage of ownership thus far on the tour. TD mixed up the set alternating between more worshipful songs like “Cry Out” and the loud, rocking “Call My Name”. Highlights of the set were when thousands raised their hands in worship as Powell led them all in singing “God of Wonders”, and guitarist Mark Lee opened “Creed” with a huge guitar solo that had the crowd on its feet well before the opening verse started. One of the more touching moments in the set came when Powell remarked that Third Day had the privilege of going on a USO tour this summer and dedicated “Always be True” to all the troops serving over seas.
After a brief break backstage,
Third Day came back out, this time joined by Robert Randolph who played
pedal steel on “The Other Side”,
another selection from Third Day’s latest release. Concert goers were
surprised and thrilled when several Jars of Clay band members including Dan
Haseltine joined Third Day and Robert Randolph onstage for a celebratory
version of “I’ll Fly Away”. And the encore reached its
peak when Powell welcomed Jon Foreman and Drew Shirley of Switchfoot back
onto the stage for a massive collaborative cover version of U2’s “When
Love Came to Town”. Front men for each band traded verses and once
again Randolph had a chance to showcase his blistering skills on the pedal
steel. The encore alone was worth the price of admission!
Habitat for Humanity is an international organization that assists families in building and purchasing their own homes. Over 250,000 homes have been built in 90 different countries. Third Day has been supporting Habitat for Humanity for several years while Switchfoot began their alliance with the organization last year when they head lined the Appetite for Construction tour with Relient K and Ruth. There are several stops left on the tour and one dollar from each ticket purchased goes to support Habitat for Humanity. For more information about the tour or Habitat, go to www.Musicbuildstour.com or www.habitat.org.
(Click on thumbnails to enlarge)
Jars of Clay:
View more concert photos at Susan's Flickr page here
All photos copyright Susan Lloyd. All rights reserved. Do not duplicate without permission.
Susan Lloyd is a professional photographer in Charleston, South Carolina who specializes in shooting concerts. She holds a degree in Music Education and has worked as a worship leader and as a youth minister. She is passionate about all types of music and enjoys encouraging and supporting bands who seek to glorify God. She also loves movies, animals, traveling, and making new friends. She and her husband have three kids and have been married for nearly 17 years. More info about Susan's photography can be found at www.susanlloydphotography.com or www.susieq3c.wordpress.com