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Winter Jam fills the Sprint Center with powerful preaching and diverse musical styles

The band Newsong performed Sunday night at Winter Jam, a Christian-themed rock, pop and hip-hop festival at the Sprint Center.
The band Newsong performed Sunday night at Winter Jam, a Christian-themed rock, pop and hip-hop festival at the Sprint Center. Special to the Star

About 15,000 people of faith attended what Russ Lee of the steadfast contemporary Christian band Newsong characterized as an “amazing, exciting church” service Sunday night at the Sprint Center. The annual Winter Jam tour combined high-energy preaching with a dazzling array of brief musical performances.

Although the show lasted more than four hours, few remarks were made about political matters or divisive social issues. The New York-based rapper Andy Mineo’s challenge to his fellow Christians to embrace “people who don’t look and talk like us” was the evening’s most explicit reference to current events.

Unlike several of his Winter Jam tourmates, Mineo proved that his work equals and sometimes surpasses the output of his elite counterparts in secular music. Mineo rode a skateboard across the expansive main stage during an explosive rendition of “You Can’t Stop Me,” a song in which he fretted that he “will never write a verse like Kendrick (Lamar).” He came close to matching the rap superstar’s electrifying presence on Sunday.

Crowder also defied the bad rap that encumbers Christian musicians. Rather than sounding like a watered-down version of Americana bands such as the Avett Brothers, the Atlanta-based group led by David Crowder played a top-drawer set of backwoods gospel bolstered by two drummers.

The versatile headliners applied a Bo Diddley beat to the rave-up “Run Devil Run” and incited a heartfelt sing-along on the original hymn “Come As You Are” that Crowder said gave him goosebumps.

An impressive contribution to Crowder’s set partly redeemed Britt Nicole’s dreary appearance earlier in the night. Accentuated by a band and a pair of dancers, the pop songs of the Nashville-based Nicole resembled chintzy Katy Perry knockoffs.

The sound of former “American Idol” contestant Colton Dixon was similarly uninspired. Yet the undeniable power of material such as “You Are,” a beautiful song he sang with his wife, compensated for the lack of originality.

Sadie Robertson, the teen daughter of Willie Robertson of the reality TV program “Duck Dynasty,” was the most unconventional speaker. In addition to providing inspiration, testimonials such as hers allowed time for the stage sets of the nine musical acts at the fast-paced production to be readied.

Mineo said that “I know this music right here might not be for everybody.” Given the diversity of styles performed on Sunday, very few attendees probably loved everything they heard. Yet for people who fully embraced the messages it contained, the concert probably provided a transformative experience.

Bill Brownlee: @happyinbag

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