Normally, when I go to a rock concert, most of the people in the audience have their hands in the air, making the “sign of the devil” with their pinky and pointer fingers extended, rocking out to the music. They’re not holding their hands out in prayer. Usually when I see women in the audience reach toward the stage, she’s trying to grab the lead singer and rip his clothes off, not reaching toward heaven as a sign of worship. And, most times, when I see people embracing in the audience, it’s because they’re on drugs or leaning on someone because they’re drunk, not because they’re loving on their neighbor as Jesus would want it.
But last night I saw all that and more, as I had my first experience at a Christian rock concert–Third Day and the David Crowder Band live at the Nokia Theater in Times Square, New York. I knew it would be much different than any show I’d experienced before, but I don’t think I was prepared for exactly how different it would be.
Because New York isn’t exactly known for its Christian rock scene, I expected plenty of empty seats. I was wrong: The place was packed and, unlike the more mainstream shows I’ve been to, people weren’t pushing, shoving, and spilling beer all over the place. People were actually polite. I figured they must all be from rural parts of Jersey or something, and not real New Yorkers; they couldn’t be! (Later in the night, a show of hands proved me wrong—most people seemed to live in the New York City area).
The David Crowder band, who walked away earlier this month with three Doves at the Gospel Music Awards–including best Rock/Contemporary album for “Collision,” best Rock/ Contemporary Recorded Song for “Here is Our King,” and for their work on the best Special Event Album, “Music Inspired by the Chronicles of Narnia”–opened the show. The wild-haired, Jesus-bearded Crowder had a wonderful rapport with the audience and put on a great performance. The crowd, especially the younger people, sang loudly and jumped around like it was a mosh pit at a House of Pain concert—except they all linked arms like old friends and no one seemed to get hurt or stepped on.
Before launching into his “rock opera,” “You Are My Joy,” Crowder said we were going to “have a little church here in the middle of the Nokia Theater.” Up until that point, the concert didn’t seem so religious–like in many concerts, much of the lyrics were drowned out by overpowering percussion and guitars–but now we were going full throttle into worship.
Right after Crowder’s set, Tai Anderson, bass player for Third Day, came on stage to talk to the crowd about the documentary, “Invisible Children,” which tells the story of children in Uganda who are kidnapped and forced to fight for rebel armies. “Standing up for justice is our role in the body of Christ,” he said, encouraging the audience to get involved with the cause.
A short while later, Third Day approached the stage to wild applause. Playing a variety of hits, such as “Cry Out to Jesus”–for which they won a Dove award for best Pop Contemporary Song of the Year–“Rock Star,” and oldies like “Consuming Fire,” the audience reveled in the mix of worship, rock, and country. One of the best moments of the night was when Third Day’s lead singer, Mac Powell, invited the David Crowder Band back on stage to sing a cover of Hank Williams Sr.’s, ” I Saw the Light.”
At the end of the night, right before he led the audience in a prayer, Mac Powell, lead singer of the group, made an interesting point when he said, “Down south, being a Christian is a cultural thing. But here in New York City, if you’re a Christian it’s for real; it’s not a cultural thing.” I wasn’t sure if he said that because of the idea that New York City is a cesspool of sin, or because it’s a place where people aren’t very open with their faith. Either way, it made me think.
Throughout the show, I felt more uplifted than I do that one time a year I go to church. There was a genuine goodness in the air, which showed itself to me in a way that my traditional Catholic church does not. Although I’ve always been a music person and a God and Jesus person, I’ve never been much of a church person. But if I could find a place where I could, as Third Day lead singer Mac Powell says, “live my faith through music,” I think I’d have a better shot of going to church more regularly.
But that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop listening to Metallica.