Since its formation 1995, Winter Jam has earned respect for showcasing Christian music’s biggest names. Playing to a total of nearly 535,000 people last year, Winter Jamoutpaced attendance from all other tours, according to Pollstar’s 2012 Worldwide First Quarter Ticket Sales Charts—Top 100 Tours, bypassing such key tours as Cirque du Soleil’s “Michael Jackson: The Immortal,” Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, The Black Keys, Jason Aldean, and Brad Paisley. Founded by Grammy-nominated Christian music mainstayNewsong and presented by World Vision, its success has reached the point where venues like San Antonio’s AT&T Center are filled to capacity with fans waiting for hours to ensure getting in to see the blockbuster line-up. Some cities reported having to turn prople away. The 44-city East Coast tour just concluded in San Antonio, TX on March 30, 2013, and the West Coast will get an opportunity to see the show beginning November 2013 (tour dates to be announced this summer).
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Headlined by Grammy-winning artist TobyMac, this 44-city Winter Jam tour also featured Newsong, RED, Matthew West, Jamie Grace, Sidewalk Prophets, and Royal Tailor. The Pre-Jam Party included Jason Castro, OBB and Capital Kings. TobyMac is a five-time Grammy Award winner and multi-platinum selling artist. He is known as one of the industry’s “most innovative and visionary artists” (Billboard). In 2012, he celebrated his eighth consecutive Grammy nomination, while his album “Tonight” received Grammy nods for “Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album” and “Best Contemporary Christian Song” for the RIAA Gold certified track “City On Our Knees.”
Capital Kings, a new duo recruited by TobyMac and Gotee records, opened and performed an electronically charged set. The group was high energy and their music quickly got people to their feet with their song “I Feel So Alive.” OBB, a trio of brothers from Atlanta, Georgia, took the main stage next and performed “All I Need Is You,””Wildfire,” and “Come On Home.” Jason Castro and his dreadlocks was easily the most identifiable from his American Idol days. He concluded the Pre-Jam Party and kicked off his set with the contemporary pop song “Good Love,” followed by “Only A Mountain,” and “I Believe.” He returned later in the show on a small stage in the middle of the orchestra section to perform a heartfelt rendition of “Hallelujah.”
Giant video screens above then began broadcasting Royal Tailor‘s live performance and Winter Jam kicked off into full gear to a sold out AT&T Center. Royal Tailor’s stage presence was high octane and they gave a solid performance filled with some dynamic acrobatics from the lead singer Tauren Wells. Newsong was up next, and their use of checkerboard lighting was a nice touch to the atmosphere and vibe. Their vocals were outstanding. Jamie Grace was up next and the ease at which she interacts with the audience at the age of 21 was impressive. She sang “Show Jesus,” “Lead Me,” and then wove into her last but most recognizable song “Hold Me” which garnered a lot of audience applause. The crowd frantically erupted when TobyMac appeared briefly to sing his bit in her top single hit.
The night was still in full swing when Sidewalk Prophets took the stage, and opened with “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us.” David Frey, lead singer for the band, has incredible stage presence and strong vocals. He took stage and performed with Russ Lee of Newsong and the two were outstanding together.
When the set transformed itself with intricate machinery and giant gears equipped with small flames over the top, it was a strong cue that Red was next to perform. Lead Singer Mike Barnes came on stage and flipped a giant switch, which got things rocking with an impressive display of pyrotechnics. Red was extremely loud and sometimes impossible to understand but fans who knew their music were able to follow along and rock out. Their stage presence and energy was off the charts. They wore extremely creative and innovative outfits, had visually stunning background sets and nobody could take their eyes off the the non-stop fireballs, sparks and flames.
Matthew West was next and immediately grabbed the audience by sharing testimonies from people who had submitted stories that he is famous for turning into song. The first, “Hello, My Name Is,” went over well as a pop song and an emotional tale describing the victory of a young man’s struggle with drugs. The second was a powerful story of forgiveness about a mother who lost her daughter at the hands of a drunk driver. The ballad “Forgiveness” was inspired by her willingness to set aside her bitterness and offer forgiveness to that man. West closed his set with “Stronger” and encouraged the audience again to hit the reset button in their lives. West is a strong performer who really knows how to interact and reach his audience.
Finally, “Made To Love” kicked in and the evening’s headliner TobyMac flew onstage with eight members of Diverse City. The fluorescent yellow accents to his set, instruments and outfits were fun and he commanded incredible energy and stage presence. He featured tracks from his most recent release “Eye on It” and his top-40 vibe and style really drew the audience to their feet. He has magnetic stage presence and easily showed why he was headlining this event. TobyMac said that one of his goals was to get everyone under the roof sweaty, and he certainly succeeded onstage. From powerful versions of a rocking “Tonight” to the mellower ballad “Lose My Soul,” TobyMac ended the evening with an explosive set.
In the end, there were over four hours of music played that night, and the diversity and talent offered was such that there was something for everyone.
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