For more than four hours, State College area fans of Christian music gathered for a night of inspiring lyrics, loud guitars and proud worship.
The annual Winter Jam Tour Spectacular , founded in 1995 by the band NewSong , paid a visit to the Bryce Jordan Center for the eighth stop in a total of 44 planned cities. This year’s tour began on Jan. 4 in Charleston, W. Va.
Asserting itself as “Christian Music’s Largest Annual Tour,” the concert brought 10 of the genre’s most celebrated contemporary bands along for this year’s ride, including Red , Matthew West and TobyMac .
The main event started about 10 minutes ahead of its scheduled start time of 7 p.m. with pop-rockers Royal Tailor officially kicking off the show with “Death of Me,” the opening track off its debut album “Black and White.”
Frontman Tauren Wells said he enjoys performing at concerts like this because it allows similar bands and audiences to all come together “under the banner of Jesus Christ.”
“You might want to get your video phones out for this one,” Wells said before launching into a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Jam,” imitating the late King of Pop’s legendary dance moves with impressive precision and even adding a few backflips to the mix.
NewSong, whose members also served as de-facto emcees for the night, took the stage next, delivering powerful renditions of songs like “Swallow the Ocean” and “Rescue.” By the time the band reached its closer, “Arise, My Love,” the passion in its singers’ voices and their ability to get a crowd off its feet could not be denied, providing testament to the band’s devotion to their religious cause.
Following up the performance was Atlanta native Jamie Grace , who transcended genre barriers with dabblings in hip-hop and straightforward pop tunes. She acknowledged most of her songs dealt with feelings of love and admitted she often dreams of the day when her own Prince Charming will come to sweep her off her feet.
“But I don’t see Tim Tebow walking around anywhere, so I don’t really know,” she joked, but added that these songs were mainly about her “first love,” Jesus.
Despite the familiar subject matter, several younger audience members couldn’t resist dancing along, and even tour headliner TobyMac couldn’t resist coming out a little early to join Grace for their collaboration, “Hold Me.”
Of course, no Winter Jam tour is complete without its guest speaker, and after a performance from Sidewalk Prophets , Nick Hall — founder of the PULSE Movement — grabbed the spotlight to talk about two distinct concepts: “reset” and “recharge.”
Hall said the new year gives people opportunity to “reset” their lives and give up anything that may hold them back from leading a life of purity, whether it be razor blades, drugs or pornography. He also insisted that “if you aren’t plugged into God every day, if you’re not being recharged by God, you have nothing to give.”
“You can’t reflect the light if you aren’t in the light,” Hall said.
Alternative metal band Red then proceeded to get the show back on track with an explosive set, incorporating thunderous pyrotechnics, flying sparks and matching industrial uniforms. The band’s stage persona may have seemed to contradict the more low-key nature of other performers, but the words of frontman Michael Barnes proved that appearances can indeed be deceiving.
“It doesn’t matter what you’ve done or where you’ve been,” Barnes told the crowd. “Right here, right now, God loves you. You are not alone.”
Matthew West, meanwhile, demonstrated his empathy by the story of how he took to social media to learn the life experiences of his fans, which would serve as the inspiration for his most recent album “Into the Light.” West said he was able to generate more than 25,000 responses.
“Easy for you to cheer, I had to read ‘em all,” West said when the crowd applauded his efforts.
Nevertheless, it wasn’t until TobyMac returned to the stage for his own set that the crowd reached its peak point of excitement, without a doubt fulfilling the rapper’s request that they feel refreshed in its spirit “because we are worshipping the one true King of all Kings.”
“Pennsylvania, I’m asking God to steal this show,” he said.