Casting Crowns delighted, Third Day rocked harder – and 15,000 fans went home uplifted.
Soaring temperatures didn't keep a capacity crowd away from Irvine's Verizon Wireless Amphitheater on Saturday (June 29, 2013), where people started pouring in by early afternoon to take in a top-tier lineup of Christian music artists performing at Fishfest 2013.
Since proceeds from The Fish/95.9 FM's festival benefit Compassion International, a global sponsorship program aimed at helping children escape poverty, there were plenty of moving firsthand testimonials to accompany performances throughout the long program.
Making its first appearance at the gathering, Georgian group Casting Crowns performed an hour of its praise-and-worship soft-rock. Although their songs don't challenge musically or lyrically the way Christian artists like Jars of Clay and Switchfoot do, connecting with more wide-ranging explorations of spirituality, Casting Crowns' accessible and melodic songs surely resonated with the faithful this night.
Lead singer Mark Hall led the seven-member ensemble through a dozen songs that offer a straightforward look at the troupe's beliefs. The band took one slight sonic detour, performing an inspired instrumental bluegrass nugget, complete with strong fiddle and mandolin dynamics, before the group segued into the uplifting "Praise You with a Dance," from its 2003 self-titled debut.
|Third Day's Mac Powell, in white shirt, with Casting Crowns.|
Hall, a youth pastor, noted that almost all CC songs begin life during Bible study. The group then performed one of its best-known tunes, "Voice of Truth," an uplifting number, with Hall's voice blending nicely with fiddle player Melodee DeVevo's soprano in the choruses. The performance reached its zenith later with an affecting take of "Lifesong," the echo and delay guitar effects draping Hall's voice in ethereal textures. Casting Crowns closed with "Until the Whole World Hears," their hardest rocker of the night (Mac Powell of Third Day joined the band on stage to share vocals with Hall during the closing selection) and the perfect chance for the audience to sing along with its big chorus.
Just as popular with the crowd, but bringing a heftier feel, was fellow Georgia group Third Day. Opening its energetic set with the original Southern rocker "Hit Me Like a Bomb," off last year's excellent album Miracle, singer Mac Powell (above) and his mates seemed energized by the rousing welcome. Whether playing acoustic rock ("Revelation," enhanced by an extended guitar solo courtesy of Mark Lee), Southern rock ("Make Your Move," "Sing a Song") or musical prayers ("I Need a Miracle" "Cry Out to Jesus"), Third Day scored with fans up front as well as those positioned high on the lawn.
|The faithful during Third Day's inspired set in Irvine.|
Midway through Third Day's set, Powell brought out another Georgian – singer Laura Story, a main-stage performer earlier in the day – to join him on a duet of the potent "God of Wonders," the piece's lushness a perfect fit for their distinct voices. Third Day then kicked its set into overdrive, performing a forceful "Children of God," an even more raucous "Otherside" and "Kicking and Screaming," all en route to the Americana rocker "Gone," launched via thea capella intro from the Eagles "Seven Bridges Road."
San Diego singer-songwriter Phil Wickham performed a fast-moving set with a sound blending U2, Simple Minds and Big Country. The 29-year-old and his four-man band impressed with an approach of buoyant beats and rich keyboard and guitar work bolstering soaring vocals. The highlight was "This Is Amazing Grace," which built from a folk intro into a driving rocker.
Performing in the scorching afternoon heat, Augusta-based Story turned in five worship songs set amid heartfelt stories of life at home. She delighted the crowd with an energetic performance of her hit "Blessings," the ballad showcasing her pretty soprano and piano feel.
Photo of Third Day's Mac Powell by Kelly A. Swift, for the Register