One of the hottest tours of 2003 is kicking off the new year on a great foot. The See Spot Rock Tour offers some of the best in Christian rock and even throws a little hip hop and ska into the mix. How is that all going to run together? Quite well actually... Consider it a well-blended Chex Mix.
Now we have to offer a disclaimer on this review to prevent hate mail from some diehard fans... (brace yourself) We missed Relient K's show entirely. We sought out an interview with up-and-coming rock geniuses Sanctus Real and we were given a time slot right smack dab during Relient's entire set. So it was beyond our control and unintentional, but I hope you enjoy the interview!
With disclaimer aside... We traveled to the great LMHS Fine Arts Center in Lancaster, Pennsylvania to the must-see event of the Spring. The show was at 3:00pm and had been added on due to the later time that evening selling out. Sure enough, the earlier show sold out as well and the sizable venue was packed to the gills with fans in for an excellent experience. The evening opened with Sanctus Real, one of the best things ever to emerge from the state of Ohio. The opened up with "Captain's Chair," overall impressing new listeners with a solid rock sound driven by two electrics and catchy rhythms. Following "Audience of One," lead singer Matt Hammitt lead the audience in singing Matt Redman's famous worship tune, "Heart of Worship." The sadly short set ended with "Inspiration" and the infectious title track from their debut record, Say It Loud.
After a very brief equipment change on stage, Another Ohio resident, hip hop entertainer John Reuben seized the stage. Reuben isn't your traditional hip hop artist as we learned in 2001 when we were forced to endure his show when waiting for Audio Adrenaline. But by the end of his performance we were converts (ironically like he said non-fans would be). Reuben has an uncanny way of getting those the least bit interested in what he's doing on stage into the music. He opened with "Up & At 'Em" side by side with his sidekick DJ Manuel. As usual, Reuben demanded audience participation with "every arm must be raised." He seemed more confident, more deliberately oblivious in his stage routine which just added to the intended humor of his set. Without missing a beat, he performed "I, John Reu" from his 2002 record Hindsight. Unfortunately Reuben's voice - accompanied by Manuel's are never near as good as that you hear on his records. While he excels at what he does, the vocals just aren't as strong or as tight. Perhaps it's the fact that he's physically a wild man on stage, but regardless, his live show vocally doesn't do him any justice. The crowd was offered a treat, though, when Matt "Mojo" Morginski of the Supertones joined Reuben for this track as the two playfully battled for the spotlight. DJ Manuel offered a solo on the turntables and included some "crowd pleasers" as a little excerpt from infamous hip hop/dance classics "Can't Touch This" and "Ice Ice Baby." The chunky beat-driven mockery "Doin'" followed to a warm reception as it closed with a little bit of Reuben's classic toying with the crowd (working in a little "Get off the stage" sing-a-long with the crowd to which he jokingly took offense to). This made a perfect intro to his wildly popular "Do Not" from his debut album Are We There Yet?.
The boys of hard rock with a slight pop tinge in Pillar opened their set with the familiar Lucas Film's THX theme often heard preceding a film in movie theaters. The sound rumbled throughout the auditorium before the cheers of the crowd were overpowered by the sounds of the band's first song, "Behind Closed Doors." The catchy and funky "Stay Up" kept the grove alive as projection images shown behind the band sent chills down our spines for the convicting "Ashamed." "It's a shame to be ashamed of the One that we should Glorify," lead vocalist Rob Beckley's lyrics resonated loud among the auditorium as a vast image of Christ shown behind the rock quartet. Images of military scenes posed as the backdrop for "Echelon" as the band continued to rock the audience. The calmer "Further From Myself" was followed by "Light At My Feet," which Beckley claimed was their first time playing it live. The only cut from their debut record Above, "Open Your Eves," gave way to the runaway anthem "Fireproof" before the group closed with the powerfully patriotic "Indivisible."
Following Pillar's engaging performance, we exited the auditorium to seek meeting up with Sanctus Real for our 4:30 interview... thus missing Relient K's performance altogether. So, following the interview, we made our way back to the show to where the Supertones had already begun, unfortunately missing their intro which we were later told is a must-see. Apparently a video of the guys dressed as FBI men chasing a criminal is the opener before the guys come out dressed accordingly. The opened with "Grounded" from their 1999 release, Chase The Sun before moving into the fun and funky "Go, Go, Go" from their latest record Hi-Fi Revival. The Supertones have successfully evolved following the demise of their debut style, ska, into a ska-flavored funk/punk rock band with pop sensibilities. The ever popular theme "Supertones Strike Back" kept things moving and looked to have no lull at any point when "Superfly" followed suit. "One Voice," the old school "Unknown," and the infectious "What It Comes To" preceded a message from bassist Tony Terusa who paused the show to peel off his fake mustache and share Romans 12:1-2 with the crowd. The band picked up the acoustics to play the softer and more subdued "Hold On To Jesus" before getting back to business with the classic anti-pride theme "Little Man." A personal favorite, the danceable and highly infectious "Welcome Home" closed out the band's set. But as the lights failed to flicker on, it was a given that there would be a little more. With that said, the band did come back to play another fan favorite, "Unite," but not before urging the crowd to support a child through Compassion International. With another show swiftly approaching at 8:00pm, the crowd had only a short time to choose merchandise before being rushed out. Some band members were floating around the masses, but no official signing sessions seemed to be taking place.
Although we missed one-fifth of the event, it's clear the See Spot Rock Tour is definitely the must-see tour of Spring 2003. So if you have a soft spot for rock music or just a darn good time, the See Spot Rock Tour is the perfect sampler of what Christian rock has to offer these days. Experience a seasoned ska/rock act and four up-and-coming giants all for one ticket price. What more can the alternative music fan ask for?-- John
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