Live: Newsboys and Audio Adrenaline in Fort Wayne

Newsboys, one of the cornerstones of modern Christian music, have long been known for their incredible live performances and their recent sold out show in Fort Wayne, Indiana saw the band at the top of their game. Fans who opted to spring for the premium package were ushered into the stadium a few hours before show time to enjoy an exclusive Q&A session with the band. The band told funny stories about drum riser mishaps and the awkwardness that can come alone from acting in a movie, but also took time to encourage the crowd and pray for them at the end of the session. General admission doors finally opened, and soon it was time for the show to begin. Opening the night was newcomer Ryan Stevenson. Stevenson’s modern approach to the singer-songwriter style was an immediate hit with the crowd, and his single “In The Eye of the Storm” got fans on their feet and singing along early in the night. OBB (Oswald Brothers Band) were the biggest surprise of the night. The trio of brothers was a massive hit with the younger portion of the audience, but given the group’s actual musical chops the parents seemed equally entertained. Eldest brother and lead singer Zachary Oswald spoke of their strong faith and desire to spread a message of hope- a desire so strong that it recently led the Oswald family to sell their house and start living on a bus, trusting that God would open doors and lead them where they need to go. Audio Adrenaline came on next, and I basically expected to enjoy a repeat of February’s Rock and Worship Roadshow experience from here on out, since both Audio A and Newsboys were part of that tour. At the Roadshow Audio Adrenaline put on a great performance, but they weren’t overly memorable in retrospect. After seeing this show it’s easy to see why: time. The Roadshow format is unique and perfect for its intended purpose, but it seems that Audio Adrenaline is a band that needs a bit of breathing room. The group truly thrives when they’re given a longer set and are able to control the pace of the show, as opposed to just trying to shove as much as they can in a 15-20min set. Whereas their Roadshow set felt somewhat hurried and, as an unfortunate result, very basic, this time the band seemed to flourish in their slightly-extended time slot. Midway through the set the band played a medley of Audio A 1.0’s biggest hits, and lead singer Adam Agee hopped off stage and made his way through the coliseum throwing out high fives and fist bumps, slowing down for photos, and having a blast interacting with fans on a closer level. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen an artist multiple times and left with such a different impression the second time around, but the entire set felt far more refined overall and it will be exciting to see how the group evolves as they continue to earn longer sets and headlining slots. After a lengthy intermission the lights went out and the stage was covered in a murky green light, allowing the crowd to get the slightest glimpse of drummer Duncan Phillips making his way to his kit. With sunglasses on Phillips struck a few poses and got the crowd hyped up as he stood alone on stage before eventually being joined by the rest of the band. Michael Tait is captivating as a frontman as he glides and shakes across the stage, looking, as I’m sure Tait would be happy to hear, like a “Chocolate Mick Jagger.” The crowd was engaged from the first note and jumped as they sang along to the band’s spirit-filled anthems such as “Guilty,” “Crazy,” “Live With Abandon,” and of course, the mega-hit “God’s Not Dead (Like A Lion),” featuring Tait doing his best lion impression as he belted out the chorus. If you’ve ever seen a Newsboys show you know it’s remarkably well produced; and if you’ve had the pleasure of seeing multiple Newsboys shows you might begin to feel that they’re perhaps a bit too well produced, evoking the same laughter from the same band members at the same intensity over the same jokes. The band leaves room for spontaneity as they make anecdotal comments about the town they’re in, but it’s obvious even those moments are pretty structured. This is an interesting conundrum that is probably somewhat unique to artists who have arrived at the mountaintop, so to say. When you’re running such a massive enterprise things have to be somewhat regimented in order to ensure everything goes off without a hitch, but in doing so you lose a little bit of that spark that breathes life into live performances. It brings in to question the entire idea of what makes for an authentic moment. In these days of YouTube and Instagram most fans have seen a performance twenty times online before they ever actually see it in person, the mystique is gone. Although the crowd didn’t seem to mind (or perhaps even notice) the eerily familiar moments from the band’s previous appearance in town, it was impossible to not wonder how much longer the “same set/same schtick every night” method will be able to hang on, not just for Newsboys, but for the industry as a whole. But again, that’s far more of an industry critique than it is an individual band critique. The only real downside of the night was how quickly everything went by. The show started at 7 and ended around 9:20pm. Newsboys played for about an hour and there was a 30-minute intermission penciled in as well. Trying to shove 3 bands into what is essentially an hour time slot made for a whirlwind. There’s a fine line artists have to walk as they determine set times for opening acts, especially when the openers are total newcomers who the vast majority of the crowd are unfamiliar with. You’re introducing artists to future fans- you want to give them enough to get them hooked, but not have them on stage long enough that people start to get frustrated. Unfortunately, it felt as though Stevenson and OBB’s set times were just too short. As soon as people started getting in to the music the artists were running off stage. But at the end of the day, if the only real critique one can write about a show is that it wasn’t long enough and may have been a bit too perfect, it’s safe to say you’re doing something right. -Ashley Adcox Click here for photos of all four bands