A 25-minute sermon was delivered in the middle of Chris Tomlin’s two-and-a-half hour Thursday concert at the Sprint Center.
The Australian-born pastor Darren Whitehead told fans of the accomplished Christian artist that “music is the soundtrack of heaven” as he implored believers to lose their inhibitions and praise God with ecstatic abandon.
Most members of the audience of 6,800 at Tomlin’s Holy Roar concert complied. Like millions of Christians around the world, they’re already accustomed to making Tomlin’s recordings and compositions a central component of their worship services.
“How Great Is Our God” is among the Tennessee-based artist’s songs that almost instantly became contemporary praise-and-worship standards. The most popular selections in Tomlin’s repertoire act as a reminder that inspirational faith-based songs are still one of the most potent strains of American music.
Songs like “How Great Is Our God” are in the moving tradition of venerable classics like “The Old Rugged Cross” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”
The primary difference between the output of Tomlin and earlier contributors in the continuum of American spiritual music is stylistic. Rather than placing his songs in country, blues or conventional gospel settings, Tomlin relies on a toothless derivation of indie-rock. The mild sound prevents the instrumentation from interfering with Tomlin’s message.
An eight-piece backing band that included guest artists Pat Barrett and Tauren Wells supported Tomlin with unassuming precision. Dressed in a black T-shirt, jeans and sneakers, Tomlin delicately balanced the roles of appealing entertainer and committed worship leader.
He applauded at the conclusion of each selection as if to deflect accolades from himself to the subject of his songs. Tomlin made an impassioned pitch for Angel Armies, an organization he founded to address “the foster care and orphan crisis in the United States,” and anticipated the arrival of Easter on Sunday by insisting that the holiday celebrates “the greatest news that’s ever happened to the world.”
Although he maintained that “God uses imperfect people to accomplish impossible things,” Wells seemed much more comfortable than Tomlin earning applause. During his eclectic three-song showcase, Wells sounded like a devout version of the pop star Ed Sheeran, a churchgoing soul artist and an authoritative rapper.
Between Wells’ turn in the spotlight and Whitehead’s sermon, Tomlin suggested that the concert represented “a little taste of heaven.” The inspiring presentation might have compelled even the most committed skeptics to shout amen.
Set list: Holy Roar; God’s Great Dance Floor; When We Pray; Praise Him Forever; The Way (New Horizon); Our God; Known; Hills and Valleys; Undefeated; Nobody Loves Me Like You; Home; Is He Worthy?; sermon; How Great is Our God; Whom Shall I Fear (God of Angel Armies); Build My Life; Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone); Good Good Father