Do you ever listen to a band because everyone else says that they're good, but no matter what you do, you just can't seem to get into them? That was the situation for me with John Mark McMillan. I'd heard some of his songs before, but they weren't clicking with me. When I heard that one of my favorite modern worship groups, The Brilliance, would be touring with John Mark, and stopping in Raleigh on the last show of that leg, it was hard for me to decide if I wanted to go. While I would get to see The Brilliance, McMillan was headlining, and I wasn't sure if I wanted to pay to see him perform since I wasn't really a fan. With the weeks leading up to the show, I had heard a couple new songs which I thought were pretty good, but I still wasn't convinced. The day before the concert, I still hadn't bought my tickets, but that morning I was looking online and saw that one of his fans said he sounds better live than in the studio. Having heard this and similar things, I gave Live at the Knight a listen. Good thing I did; it's one of the best live albums I've ever heard! I bought tickets for the concert that night.
We arrived at the Lincoln Theatre a little after 7:00, and a few minutes before the doors opened. I really like coming back to venues where I've seen other concerts in the past. Even if it's not a particularly nice venue, there's still a sense of sentimentality involved, at least for me. In this case, it was the Lincoln Theatre. One of my first concerts I'd ever seen was Jars of Clay on their summer tour at this venue a few years ago promoting their most recent studio album, Inland. A few years later, I got to see classic rockers Stryper play on their "No More Hell to Pay" tour, so I was happy to be seeing another show at this venue. When we got inside, we found a good place to stand and were ready for a night of music.
Lapeer kicked off the night at 7:30 with his trio. I hadn't heard any of his music before, but I liked the energy he had in his performance. His band consisted of a drummer, a guitar player, and himself on a guitar, with the drummer using backing tracks on some of the songs. After their first song, Lapeer talked about how the last time he was in the area, he was opening for Gungor. Then he played a song called "90's Kids." He then went into what he called his biggest hit, even though it's about his ex-girlfriend and is meant to be a sad song. After this, they ended their set with "One Last Summer" and exited the stage.
After the cellist from The Brilliance opened their set with a chilling Bach intro, the rest of the band came out on stage to play the self-titled track from their album, Brother. I was disappointed to see that John Arndt wasn't on the piano. According to my sources, apparently, he is on a different tour right now, so he hasn't been playing with The Brilliance this tour, though the pianist they did have was excellent. They continued their set with "Yahweh," "See the Love" and "Run," during which they transitioned into the classic patriotic song, "God Bless America." Lead singer David Gungor then went on to talk about how they plan on releasing a new album soon, and played some new tracks called "Welcome to the Darkness," "Give Me Doubt" and "Holding on to You." David then said that, for their next song, they would be changing the lyrics to their song "Breathe" to be about the solar eclipse that happened recently, thus changing the song title to "Earth." While I prefer the original version of the song, I thought it was an interesting idea, and I think he made it work. They then closed with a new track called "World Keeps Spinning," for which one of John Mark McMillan's guys came out and played guitar on this song to close out what may have been the best set performance of the night. I must admit; hearing David belt out the vocals on this new song has me excited for their upcoming album.
After a brief change between acts, John Mark McMillan and his band launched into their set with a song off his new album, called "Gods of American Success." He then went into "Borderland" and had his brother-in-law, Jude Moses, who played mandolin and guitar in the band, sing a verse. I was surprised by how good of a voice he had, making his vocals a treat to hear. McMillan then played new tracks "Unhaunted" and the title track off his new album, Mercury & Lightning. McMillan then got the crowd singing on "Death in His Grave," for which Jude sang a verse on as well. It's a great song, and one of the most worshipful moments of the night. He went on to play "Guns / Napoleon," "Enemy, Love," "Nothing Stands Between Us" and "Persephone," during which McMillan gave the band introductions. I thought it was interesting that McMillan's drummer also did drums for The Brilliance during their set. I was told this happened because The Brilliance's touring drummer had a previous engagement. Another new track, "No Country," continued McMillan's set and, oddly enough, briefly transitioned from this song into Bruce Springsteen's hit, "Dancing in the Dark." McMillan and the band played acoustic versions of "Counting On" and "Love You Swore." The band then went into a personal favorite, "Wilderlove," for which two members of the band went into the audience to play part of the song, followed by the fan favorite "Future/Past" and briefly transitioned into his biggest hit to date, "How He Loves." I thought it was odd for McMillan to not play the entire song, but it was still cool to hear everyone singing along to what has become one of the most well-known worship songs in recent years. After this, McMillan shared from his heart about his love for children and how, through that, he got involved with Compassion International. It was great to hear how passionate he was about such a great organization. He went on to talk about how his next song is based off the Bible story about Mephibosheth and David. McMillan then played "Death in Reverse," after which the band left the stage and an excited Raleigh crowd cheered for more. After a few minutes of roaring applause, John Mark and his band, as well as David Gungor from The Brilliance, and Lapeer came on stage to sing an acoustic version of Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes." This being one of my favorites from Gabriel, I enjoyed their cover of the song, and I think the audience did as well. After David and Lapeer left the stage, McMillan closed with the powerful anthem, "Heart Runs." It was a great way to end the night.
I must admit, I really enjoyed McMillan's live performance. He, as well as the other acts, really gave their all in their performances, and it was truly a treat to watch. If you're not a fan of McMillan, check him out live before you decide you're not a fan. Though this was the last show of this leg, the tour will continue in October with Kings Kaleidoscope replacing The Brilliance, and in November with The Brilliance returning for the last leg of the tour. If you're a fan of any of these bands, I would recommend checking out this tour. To find tour dates, you can go to http://www.johnmarkmcmillan.com and http://thebrilliancemusic.com.-- Jack Glasheen, 9/27/17
The Brilliance Set List
03. See the Love
05. Welcome to the Darkness
06. Give Me Doubt
07. Holding on to You
08. Earth (Breathe)
09. World Keeps Spinning
John Mark McMillan Set List
01. Gods of American Success
04. Mercury & Lightning
05. Death in His Grave
06. Guns / Napoleon
07. Enemy, Love
08. Nothing Stands Between Us
10. No Country
11. Counting On / Love You Swore (Acoustic)
13. Future / Past
14. How He Loves
15. Death In Reverse
16. In Your Eyes (Acoustic)
17. Heart Runs
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