The rapper KB set the tone for the Winter Jam concert at the Sprint Center with a rousing mash-up. In combining the soccer chant “I believe that we will win” with Journey’s classic rock hit “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” during his opening set, KB kicked off several hours of shamelessly derivative, relentlessly optimistic and boundlessly energetic Christian pop music.
About 15,000 people paid $10 each to hear a wide variety of inspirational sounds, a moving sermon and plenty of sales pitches for charitable and commercial endeavors.
Winter Jam’s “tour pastor” Bobby Joiner explained that the annual tour was formulated about 20 years ago when “we decided we would present Christ like the Bible said — with loud music.”
High volume was accompanied by live video projections, first-rate production values on two stages and commendable pacing. Aside from a lengthy pitch to make an additional “love donation” to the organizers of Winter Jam and a slight delay that led to an a cappella audience sing-along of “God Bless America,” the evening session of Winter Jam ran like clockwork.
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The headlining outing by the Australian group For King & Country did nothing to dispel the notion that many Christian musicians blatantly imitate the work of popular secular acts. For King & Country filled the arena with colossal indie-rock that drew heavily on the sound of Imagine Dragons.
An appearance by Lauren Daigle evoked the singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles while the aggressive rock songs of Red echoed the repertoire of Disturbed.
Charges of forgery miss the point. The message was at least as important as the music on Sunday. Tony Nolan denounced organizations that picket public events with hateful signs as “blurry representations of God” in his effective sermon. Most of the artists delivered similarly inclusive messages of hope.
The audience didn’t care that the Americana ensemble led by David Crowder is almost a carbon copy of the Zac Brown Band. They were more interested in singing along to a fortifying medley of “I Saw the Light” and “I’ll Fly Away” that Crowder described as a “foot stompin’ hand-clappin’ number.”
Dayton Moore, the general manager of the Kansas City Royals, was invited to the stage by the contemporary Christian musician Matthew West. Moore suggested that he and the members of the audience “share a commonality and that’s the love of Jesus.”
Although West and the members of his band wore Royals gear, the immensely talented West didn’t require Moore’s presence or a wardrobe gimmick to win over the crowd. Unlike most of the artists that performed on Sunday, West demonstrated that it’s possible to strike a rewarding balance between satisfying entertainment and meaningful worship.