SACRAMENTO — What a difference a year makes.
I attended last year’s Winter Jam Tour Spectacular at Arco Arena (it will always be Arco to me) and while the crowd was decent, it was nowhere near the crammed-to-the-rafters show that took place last weekend.
Winter Jam was started 17 years ago by Christian band Newsong and features numerous artists performing, as well as a speaker and an opportunity to serve those in need. It was brought to the West Coast for the first time last year.
The seating is first-come, first-served and since it is only $10 at the door, the lines were enormous. I went through a special gate for press and members of a club called Jam Nation as I did last year, but in 2011 the line had maybe 20 people. This year there were hundreds.
The MC of Winter jam is Newsong singer Russ Lee, whose humor and homey nature is infectious. Early entrants were treated to a question-and-answer session with a few of the artists. The questions ran the gamut from the serious – a request for prayer for a woman with Lou Gehrig’s disease – to the silly – “who do you prefer between Superman and Batman?” (The latter was unanimous.)
The concert began with Newsong’s Eddie Carswell asking for and receiving a deafening round of applause “for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
The first group to perform was electronic pop duo Capital Kings, who got the crowd moving. They were followed by Dara Maclean, whose pleasing blue-eyed soul sound soared on hits like “Suitcases.”
Fourth place “American Idol” finalist Jason Castro was up next and he received an enthusiastic, screaming teenage-girl response when introduced, but his set was rather lackluster. He was much better singing a delicate duet with Maclean later in the show during the free will offering.
The Group 1 Crew offered up a tasty, funky set next and was the first group to use the dual convex chess board monitors above the stage. They were followed by Newsong, who performed an exquisite version of “Arise, My Love” while a huge curtain in front of them showed a portrait being painted that symbolized Jesus, whose eye dramatically opened at the climax of the song.
A bubbly, sincere set by 20-year old phenom Jamie Grace’s followed and Toby Mac made a guest appearance on her hit song “Hold Me” to the audience’s delight. Chris August’s tight set included “Starry Night” and he was followed by hard rockers Red and their high-energy, pyrotechnic-filled performance. After a break, Sidewalk Prophets performed their hit “You Love Me Anyway” and others.
Winter Jam is about ministry first and foremost and speaker Nick Hall proclaimed the message of love of Jesus Christ to the crowd and later urged all to sponsor a child through World Vision.
Then it was Toby time.
It was hard to believe I had seen him 16 years prior on that same stage as a member of Christian Supergroup DC Talk on the “Jesus Freak” tour. Toby Mac has put out very strong material following the dissolution of DC Talk and his latest, “Eye On It,” released in August, hit No. 1. Still, he is even better live.
Toby Mac stated from the outset that he and his band Diverse City were going to give everything they had and he was true to his word. Favorites like “Tonight,” “City on Our Knees” and “Made to Love” joined new songs like “Eye On It,” “Me Without You” and “Forgiveness.”
The only thing was he didn’t close with the signature Toby Mac number “Jesus Freak,” which is like the Rolling Stones omitting “Satisfaction.” Still, after being served such an exquisite worship feast, I could not complain.
Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at email@example.com.