Steven Curtis Chapman, Christ Tomlin, Casting Crowns|
4/1/05, Giant Center in Hershey, PA
I've never been much of a fan of large venues for shows. And I distinctly remember seeing
Steven Curtis Chapman at Giant Center -- then just called "Hershey Arena" -- many years ago (perhaps
even before the Hideout began) and feeling so far away and disconnected from the show. But, alas,
with artists as popular as Steven, Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant, and the like, you're not too likely
to see them in a small and intimate setting. But Chapman is one who you can always count on for an entertaining
and spirit-filled evening. And now, in support of his fourteenth album, The All Things New Tour, Steven
delivers once again.
Coinciding beautifully with the "All Things New" theme for the night, Steven opened the evening
with the chorus from "Much Of You" and a prayer before the Atlanta-based worship group Casting Crowns
moved the crowd. Casting Crowns opened with their simplistic but popular "If We Are The Body" before frontman
Mark Hall paused to pour his heart out to the audience regarding his struggles with dyslexia and ADD. Those
in attendance who aren't quite excited about the opening act could easily still find relevance in Hall's openness
and vulnerability. Casting Crown's unashamed youth-group-style approach to worship leading and songwriting
is indeed an acquired taste, but their ministry clearly moved hearts.
Following Casting Crown's brief set, Chapman came back on stage to explain to the crowd his new
idea to fill set-change time in with a quick revisit to older classics from his career. The stripped down
acoustic set involved his entire entourage who aided him in performing "More To This Life," "For The
Sake Of The Call," "Free," "Not Home Yet," "The Change," and "The Walk."
Before Christ Tomlin came on to contribute to the evening, Chapman presented a disclaimer to the audience
regarding Tomlin's vocals. For unexplained reasons even unknown to Tomlin, his voice had
all but completely quit on him the morning of the show. Tomlin decided to be a real trooper and attempt to
lead the crowd in worship regardless of his condition. As a result, a heartfelt and passionate worship
set unfolded, with the audience leading most of the songs for Tomlin. The worship leader opened
with "Heart Of Worship," offered his original "We Fall Down," and Tim Hughes' "Here I Am To Worship," before
ending with his own "Forever." Tomlin's worship session was all about Jesus and a strong addition
to the evening. The only drawback musically, however, is the monotonous approach to repeating
worship choruses with no end in sight. I felt a song or two began nearly wearing out its chorus.
While a song change may have been a stronger choice than dragging out the existing ones, I was
still impressed by Tomlin's set.
Steven Curtis Chapman returned again to talk about his experiences with adoption and his three
adopted baby girls and played a portion of his song "What Now." Immediately following a video on Steven's
organization Shaohannah's Hope, a twenty minute break began, giving everyone a chance to walk around or visit
the merch tables. When the break ended, the lights went out once again, and Steven emerged center stage
with his full band accompanying him to perform the title track from his newest project, All Things New.
Now eighteen years into his career and in his early fourties, some might expect Steven to be slowing
down and softening up musically, but that just isn't his style. Visibly still just a boy with his guitar
doing service for his King, Chapman and his band are as tight as ever. And it was obvious as his set
progressed from one upbeat pop/rocker to the other ("I Do Believe," to "Jesus Is Life," to "Only Getting Started"),
that they were having a blast. Naturally, Chapman included a few more slower moments, specifically the worshipful
"Much Of You" and then went into a medley of songs from his All About Love album, which never
had its own tour in promotion. And what SCC set would be complete without him taking a moment to talk
about his family? Chapman always makes his shows feel like a family gathering and when he shares about
his children, it only reinforces that feeling. From Caleb's new experiences with learning how to
drive to Stevie Joy setting the dining room table on fire, Chapman spoke about as many funny moments
as tender ones. This lead into "When Love Takes You In," Steven's piano ballad inspired by his experiences with adoption.
A large oval-shaped screen displayed behind Steven and his band for their entire set, occasionally
showing shots of scenery, Steven's family, current live footage from the night, and clips from concept videos he's filmed.
Scenes from his "When Love Takes You In" video, which features himself with his wife Mary Beth and their first adopted
daughter Shaohannah really added to the mood of the song. The traditional worship song "Great Is
Thy Faithfulness" followed, along with Steven's "Believe Me Now" (which brought Mark Hall back
out to accompany Steven), "Magnificent Obsession" and "Speechless." Steven displayed a sense of
childlike pleasure in stirring up the crowd for the closing numbers "Live Out Loud," the
always pleasing classic "Great Adventure," and the energetic "Dive." And to end the night with the
right mood, Steven lead the crowd in a few more refrains of "All Things New" and invited Casting
Crowns and Chris Tomlin back on stage for his offering of Tomlin's "Forever."
Steven Curtis Chapman is as amazing as ever on his most recent outing. And while the opening acts aren't
as versatile or appealing musically as Chapman, fans of adult contemporary and worship will undoubtedly
enjoy the entire evening. The All Things New Tour is a Chapman fan's dream, with Steven Curtis serving up
twenty five songs from his career. If you get a chance to go this Spring, don't miss this tour!
-- John DiBiase, 4/3/05