By Mallory Sherwood, Managing Editor
Grammy-award winning Christian band Casting Crowns performed in Moody Coliseum on Monday night with Nichole Nordeman, newcomer Josh Bates and tour pastor Tony Nolan for the Lifesong tour, which began on the heels of Casting Crowns’ second release, Lifesong.
The trio’s performance was the first major Christian artist performance to make it to the stage without canceling because of low ticket sales since 2003 in Abilene. Third Day canceled its Dec. 1, 2003, concert when only 500 tickets had sold the Tuesday before the concert was scheduled.
More than 3,500 people from Abilene and surrounding areas attended the 7 p.m. concert, although most didn’t arrive until the headliner Casting Crowns took the stage.
Twenty-three year old Josh Bates opened the night with songs he co-wrote, including his hit single, “Perfect Day” from his debut album, Perfect Day. The Kentucky-native sang only four songs, but accompanied himself with the mandolin reflecting his Appalachian roots and interest in bluegrass music.
Bates released his first album last fall under Beach Street Records, a new recording company that also carries Casting Crowns. Beach Street Records was created after Casting Crowns lead singer Mark Hall met Mark Miller, lead singer of country group Sawyer Brown, and 50-time Dove award winner and Christian artist Stephen Curtis Chapman.
Nichole Nordeman, an eight-time Dove award winner, followed Bates and began her performance with “Legacy” from her third album, Woven and Spun. Nordeman accompanied herself on the piano along with her three-person band and introduced each song describing why shwrote it. Nordeman released her fourth album last May, Brave, her first in three years after the birth of her son, Charlie.
Other songs she performed include: “Lay it Down,” “Brave,” “Hold On,” and “Holy.”
By the time Nordeman had finished her performance, the audience was on its feet in anticipation of the night’s headliner, Casting Crowns.
The Atlanta-based group led by Mark Hall has been performing for only three years. In the short time since the seven-member band hit the stage, Casting Crowns has swept the 2005 Gospel Music Awards and won a Grammy.
In 2005 the band won: songwriter of the year (Mark Hall), song of the year (“Who am I”), pop contemporary song of the year (“Who am I”), inspirational song of the year (“Voice of Truth”) and group of the year for its debut self-entitled album, Casting Crowns.
In January, the group won a Grammy for best pop/contemporary gospel album for Lifesong, competing against Steven Curtis Chapman, Jars of Clay, Out of Eden, Michael W. Smith and Third Day.
Casting Crowns was created after Hall, a youth minister for 12 years, began writing songs for his youth group bands in Atlanta. He said he never imagined performing his music himself because he battles with attention deficit disorder and dyslexia, things he never thought he could conquer while on a stage.
Hall and the group have managed to conquer his disorder, performing more than 70 concerts while on their tour thus far, with 22 more stops scheduled across the Midwest to end the tour Sept. 8.
Casting Crowns performed 13 songs including: “Set Me Free,” “Praise You In This Storm,” “Does Anybody Hear Her,” “Who am I,” “Voice of Truth,” “What If His People Prayed,” and “Stained Glass Masquerade.”
On July 21-24, Casting Crowns will travel to South Africa and Kenya to minister through its music and to partner with its sponsor, World Vision. The band members include: Hector Cervantes, guitars and vocals; Juan Devevo, guitars and vocals; Melodee Devevo, violin and vocals; Megan Garrett, piano and vocals; Chris Huffman, bass; and Andy Williams, percussion.
The lyrics behind Casting Crowns’ second album, Lifesong, came from the stories and testimonies shared by fans on its Web site, Hall said. Hall wrote a book, Lifestories, which will come out in August that shares the “life songs” of the people the band has met while on tour.
Hall shared one story while on stage. The song “Praise You in This Storm,” was written for a 10-year-old girl named Erin Browning who battled severe bone cancer for three years before she died in November 2004.
Browning had been a fan of Casting Crowns and had performed dances at school to the group’s music. They met while on tour just before she was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma. The song was inspired by the writings from her mother, Laurie, about Erin’s last moments. Laurie wrote Casting Crowns re-telling how she literally stood on the Bible as she read her daughter’s favorite Scripture while she slept the night she died.
For many who attended the concert, including Dylan Easter, freshman youth and family ministry major from Gatesville, Casting Crowns’ lyrics are what made the band stand out from other Christian artists.
“My favorite song they sing is ‘We Are The Body,” because it is so true,” Easter said. “This song makes you realize that we as a church really aren’t doing the job we’re called to.”
Hall said his lyrics come from his heart for the church. He said it all comes down to choosing God, which is something he wants his lyrics to encourage.
“God does not need us – he wants us,” Hall said. “He is going to do what he wants to do; he just wants to know if we want to come along for the ride.”