Winter Jam 2013 rocks Fort Wayne featuring Tobymac and Red

by Reggie Edwards

It’s hard to believe it’s already time for Winter Jam 2013. It seems like just a few months ago that Skillet was blowing us away as 2012 headliners.

Be it as it may, it is, in fact, time for the 2013 installment of the Winter Jam Tour Spectacular, whose lineup is one of the biggest yet, featuring  Tobymac, Red, Matthew West, Sidewalk Prophets, Jamie Grace and more.

We had the chance to catch the Fort Wayne date of the tour and, as always, Winter Jam didn’t disappoint.

Winter Jam is always on high demand. In fact, it’s the number one tour in America- literally; Winter Jam has the highest attendance of ANY tour in the nation. This probably stems from the fact that there are no advanced tickets, you show up and pay $10 at the door and you’re in. Then add in the biggest names in Christian music and you’ve got a recipe for a guaranteed sold out show every date.

This date was no exception. Over 4,000 people didn’t get in- almost including us. We were told they were at capacity and had to get permission from the Fire Marshall to get in. Phew, that was close!

After the pre-party jam, which included Jason Castro, Winter Jam creators Newsong and others, it was time to get the party started. Jamie Grace kicked it off by coming down through the stands, much to the crowd’s excitement.

She made her way up to the stage for what was one of the best sets of the night in my opinion. She had a sound that can best be described as a mix of pop, country and hip hop. Her stage presence couldn’t have been better as she danced and just goofed around while still keeping that professional showmanship that sets the big dawgs apart from the small.

She ended the set with her smash hit, “Hold Me,” for which she was joined on stage by headliner Tobymac, to which the crowd erupted.

As a newer artist, she’s definitely gonna be around for awhile. Don’t be surprised to see her on Winter Jam tours far into the future.

Next up we had Sidewalk Prophets, who are no strangers to Winter Jam, this being the third time in four years they’ve been on the tour- last year they were on the Rock and Worship Road Show at the same time, otherwise I’m sure they would have been on it again.

They’ve been around for a few years now and have been a crowd favorite ever since they broke onto the scene. This was obvious throughout their set as the sold-out crowd sang along for almost every song.

Probably the most entertaining part of their set was the videos shown during “Love, Love, Love,” where Lego versions of the band performing were shown on the big screens.

 

Even though these guys aren’t my style (I like it heavier) they were definitely a great asset to Winter Jam and there’s no surprise they keep coming back.

Next up on the night was RED, who I honestly think should have been headlining or right before Tobymac, rather than in this sport. Granted, there was one other artist between Red and Tobymac, and I’m not taking anything away from Matthew West, who put on a great show, but Red’s stage show was the best of the night.

Giant machines with gears adorned the stage. As the band took their places, decked out in jumpsuits, goggles and giving a machinist impression, a larger-than-life explosion boomed through the arena and flames ignited across the stage. The lone rock band of the night had made their presence known, blasting into “Feed the Machine” from 2011’s Until We Have Faces.

 

Flames shot up from left-to-right of the stage and frontman Michael Barnes, as usual, didn’t stand still for one second. If you want a high-energy, in-your-face show, go see Red. They won’t disappoint.

After “Who We Are,” during which Barnes left stage and ran through the audience until he got to a second smaller stage in the back of the arena, the band went straight into “Not Alone,” a ballad from the same album. Red have always had amazing ballads to match their harder material.

During the climax of the song, Barnes had made his way back to the stage as sparks shot up from the stage up to the rafters, giving a great effect.

 

Ending the set with “Death of Me,” “Breathe Into Me,” and the title track from their upcoming album, Release the Panic, Red made sure not to leave before smoke, fire and sparks all hit stage simultaneously.

The crowd was blown away and it was time for an intermission….rightly so because no one would have been able to follow Red immediately and still keep the crowd engaged. They definitely stole the show.

After the intermission and a short message from second-year speaker Nick Hall, Matthew West took the stage for probably the most inspirational performance of the night.

Even though I think Red should have been after West, he still blew us away. West’s latest studio record, Into the Light, continues the theme of telling fans’ life stories they submit to West and turning them into songs so the rest of the world can hear stories of personal triumph.

Throughout the set, West showed videos of people actually telling their stories followed by West playing the song he wrote about them. Needless to say it was a moving performance and one I won’t soon forget.

Next up was the headliner, the Christian music legend himself, Tobymac. I’ve seen Tobymac quite a few times and he rarely disappoints. Tonight was not one of those times, as he had a new stage show to match a new album, Eye On It.

The lights went down and a spotlight illuminated the stage where the one and only Tobymac stood alone.

From here, he rattled off an impressive medley of “Made to Love,” “No Ordinary Love,” “Tonight” and more, complete with an outstanding and dynamic drum line breakdown done by Toby and the Diverse City band. Not to mention the medley ended with a great sparks shower on the stage.

 

Not only was the stage show impressive but the stage setup was great as well, with a larger-than-life DJ tower adorning the stage with Toby’s DJ standing on top of it for the whole show.

Plus you had the typical Tobymac live show staples like the acoustic set (this tour featured “Gone” and “One World”) performed from the back of the arena on a smaller stage, then performing “Forgiveness” during which a video of LeCrae played on the screen of the DJ tower for the verse he appears on.

To end the night, Toby was joined on stage by Jamie Grace for a rendition of “Funky Jesus Music” off Portable Sounds as well as his latest hit, “Me Without You.”

Toby performed a great mix of older hits and new songs on the night. The only thing that would have made the night better is if he would have performed some Momentum tracks.