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New Yorkers jumped, screamed, raised their hands, and waved thNokia Theatreeir arms at the Nokia Theatre in New York City on Sunday night as MercyMe headlined a concert with newcomer Phil Wickham (whose voice evokes a bit of Jason Wade from Lifehouse) and well-seasoned band Audio Adrenaline.

Most known for their hit single “I Can Only Imagine,” which played repeatedly on mainstream radio, MercyMe recently released a new album, “Coming Up to Breathe,” an infectious, energetic rock-worship album that faintly recalls the sounds of Casting Crowns, the David Crowder Band, and the now-defunct band, “Seven Day Jesus.”

MercyMe's Bart Millard When MercyMe first began gaining recognition, they toured and opened for Audio Adrenaline. Now that Audio Adrenaline is ending their career, they were on their last tour as one of the opening acts for MercyMe. Lead singer Mark Stuart took the stage encouraging fans onto the platform with him and playing favorites such as “Big House,” “Ocean Floor,” and closing with a final bittersweet song, “Goodbye.” Even though I’d never seen Audio before in concert, Mark sang with incredible heart until his voice began wavering, a sad and poignant revelation that his voice was starting to “reach the end,” a main reason why Audio is disbanding. However, given the huge response and loud sing-alongs, Audio’s career may be ending, but its legacy will not be.

Audio Adrenaline's Mark Stuart The rest of the night continued to be an exuberant, rock-edged worship service where, in-between euphoric songs such as “Coming Up to Breathe” and “So Long Self,” everyone freely proclaimed the name of Jesus and were intermittently led in prayer by MercyMe’s Bart Millard. MercyMe also paid a tribute to Audio, singing the slow worship ballad, “Tremble.” Winding down the night, MercyMe sang their signature song “I Can Only Imagine” and then ended their two-song encore with an enthusiastic burst of “One Trick Pony.”

Singing, praising, and worshipping with other Christians–famous and not famous–in the middle of Times Square was a crazy, amazing, and blessed experience. Meeting Audio Adrenaline’s lead singer and all the band members of MercyMe at a media meet-and-greet was even more heart-stopping. Even while it’s silly to fawn over any celebrity, there was something indescribably special about meeting such humble, down-to-earth, and talented artists. I’m hoping these guysMercyMe continue making music and come back to New York soon (after their Hawaii stop in April 2007), a city all the musicians said had the best and most incredible audience.

Since it’s rare for Christian bands, who get their start out west and down south, to headline at any venues in New York City, the excitement of east coast fans always escalates into a palpable collective heartbeat. For one evening, that heartbeat and the soul of God-centered music was definitely alive in the center of the crowded neons and drifters of Times Square.

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