Every genre of music deserves a transcendent superstar. There are rock stars. Then there is Bruce Springsteen. There are country stars. Then there is Garth Brooks. There are Christian bands. Then there is Newsboys.
Newsboys, currently helmed by Michael Tait, brought their brand of Christian rock to the PlayStation Theater in Manhattan last night, September 24th. Tait, along with fellow band members Duncan Phillips (drums), Jeff Frankenstein (keyboards), and Jody Davis (guitar), played with an abundance of energy to a standing-room-only crowd.
Now, far from a Jesus Freak, (The name of one of Tait’s hits from his days with DC Talk. Its awesome, high-energy forcefulness closed out the main set.), I like to think of myself as agnostic. But good music is good music. And Newsboys performs great music. My good friend and sometimes-co host, Chris Ortiz, introduced me to their work. I have great respect for Newsboys’ music and the message behind it.
If there was a message last night, it was simply Love with a capital “L”. The band clearly Loves their fans, their music, and yes, Jesus. Not many concerts open with a prayer. But that is exactly how the night’s emcee, ChildFund spokesman Jeremy Willet, welcomed the crowd. Afterwards, it was time for openers Graham Saber and Ryan Stevenson. Another popular band, The Afters, played a longer set.
After these acts, Willet returned to the stage to pitch ChildFund in the night’s only cringe-worthy moment: pretending to Skype with children in Africa. Though, the intent was noble: to emotionally encourage the audience to sponsor the education of children in a third-world country. Many, true to their Christian values, signed up. It was beautiful to see.
After a brief intermission, Newsboys took the stage. Their music can be heard on the 17 records they have recorded over the last 31 years. Last night heavily featured music from the band’s most recent studio endeavor, Love Riot. In the roughly hour-and-fifteen-minute concert, an incredibly young-looking Michael Tait gave this new music every ounce of energy he had.
Whether strutting like a runway model during the band’s newest hit, “Crazy”, or getting right into the mosh pit during their classic “We Believe”, the amount of energy Tait demonstrated showcased why the band is usually accustomed to playing large arenas. You would never believe he turned 50 in May.
The night’s most poignant moment came prior to the show-stopping “Love Riot”. During a speech about recent tensions, Tait, a black man, emphatically boomed into the microphone, “Especially for those who believe: All lives matter.” Clips of news stories about the tragedies in Ferguson, Dallas, and Baltimore also preceded the number.
After a few more songs, the band closed out their main set. They returned for a two-song encore: First up was “Heros”, another song off of their newest studio album. They closed the show with a career-defining song featured in the popular film God’s Not Dead. When they began to play “God’s Not Dead (Like a Lion)”, the screams of joy in the room reached a fever pitch.
How transcendent is Newsboys? Love Riot hit #14 on the Billboard Hot 200 charts. It has also hit #1 on every Christian chart. Their performance style, music, and love for God is never preachy in a way that makes their message inaccessible to the mainstream.
That message is one our country needs now more than ever: to simply live in Love, no matter where you come from or what you believe. Michael Tait put it best when he said, “The beauty of the human race is simply found in the diversity of the human race.” Amen.