Excerpt: George Schroeder article, Like Peanut Butter and Chocolate – From The Inside, The ‘SCC3D Tour’

The rehearsal is running long. Time is running out. Everyone is running on fumes. Mac Powell is not running at all. He needs a nap—so right there on the stage, while the music is playing, he lies down.

Steven Curtis Chapman and the guys from Third Day have been looking forward to this moment for a long time. Two legendary acts touring together as one—Third Day as Chapman’s backup band, Chapman as a quasi-member of Third Day, playing each other’s hits—is unusual anywhere, but it’s essentially unprecedented in Christian music, and they’re hoping the combination produces something uniquely special. But right now, two hours before showtime, the whole idea feels iffy.

Excitement has been replaced by exhaustion. Anticipation has given way to trepidation. The concept that seemed so cool when they dreamed it up years ago in the back of a tour bus feels very different with the clock ticking toward 5 p.m. The concert begins at 7.

In four hours,” says Brent Milligan, Chapman’s producer and guitarist, “we’ll know—one way or another.”

But in four hours—and for that matter, in the next four nights—it becomes clear: They’re on their way to producing something extraordinary. Even halfway through—after a monumental show at the Beacon Theatre in New York City, the tour still has dates remaining in Atlanta and Dallas before finishing May 7 in Cincinnati—it’s apparent the concept is as cool in reality as it was when Powell, late one night while Third Day’s bus rolled down a highway, first watched that old concert footage of Bob Dylan playing with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and thought, “Man, I want to do that someday.” Or when he and Chapman first talked about the idea, agreeing that it should happen if they could ever get the logistics worked out.

Steven Curtis Chapman and Third Day, Third Day and Steven Curtis Chapman. You pick the order, it really doesn’t matter, because the mash-up works just like Third Day guitarist Mark Lee suggested, a few days before the tour kicked off: “It’s gonna be like the peanut butter and chocolate thing.”

Which is why they’ll look back forever at that moment in Little Rock before the first show, when Powell literally laid down on the job, and laugh together. Ever since, Chapman has given him a hard time.

“Hey, I’m the old guy here,” he’s been telling Powell. “I’m the one that ought to be taking a nap and you’re the one lying down.”

“It wasn’t so much in protest,” Powell says, “as it was just, ‘I can sing and lay down, so let me do that.’”

But understand this much: “Mac was worn out,” says Third Day drummer David Carr. And the truth is, after two very long days of rehearsals, so was everybody.

“That’s the most tired I’ve been from any kind of drumming activity in a long time,” Carr says. “My hands were worn down. The skin on my thumbs was raw from the drumsticks – which is a good thing.

“It makes it that much more romantic to talk about how hard we worked for it. … We had to kind of earn it.”

The payoff – for Chapman and Third Day, but really for anyone within earshot—is at least what they’d hoped it might be, and probably much more.

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Part of Chapman’s message each night, when he stops singing for a little while and talks to the audience, is to treasure the moments. And in the early days of the tour, that’s exactly what everyone involved seems to be doing.

A concert, much less an entire tour, is designed to be a well-rehearsed, scripted event. But it is also organic, changing with the shape and sound of the room and the size and vibe from the crowd and the health and feel of the band and so many other moving parts that often cannot be predicted. Each date is different, producing something new to savor, either onstage or off. Given this tour’s unique nature, that’s especially true. Which is why it’s perhaps best measured in the moments.

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It’s Chapman, after the first show, telling Powell how much he loved the way “Cinderella” and “Glorious Unfolding” flowed so easily and fittingly into “Blessed Assurance” and “Cry Out to Jesus.”

Earlier in the day, with the help of Third Day’s manager Lott Shudde and Chapman’s tour manager Harold Rubens, Powell and Chapman had laid index cards with song titles on the floor in the dressing room, then played with different sequences. The result was more than they’d expected.

“This IS our story!” Chapman says, playing off the lyrics from “Blessed Assurance.” “It’s in all of those songs. It works so well and we didn’t set it up that way!”

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It’s getting something as simple as a “bop-bop” right, over and over—first with fear and then with fun. Especially for Third Day, the challenge of learning the intricacies of Chapman’s arrangements and the timing and phrasing of his lyrics has been difficult. “Bop-bop,” for example, is Chapman’s very technical term for a couple hard taps on the snare drum. Before the first show, as they’re rehearsing “Lord of the Dance,” he tells Carr that in the song’s second verse, as the first line ends“A little boy full of wide-eyed wonder…”—“there’s this neat ‘bop-bop’ that really makes it sound cool.”

A few hours later when Carr nails it, Chapman turns around and smiles. But Carr later admits: “I’d been thinking about it all day.” But by the third night, as the sequence approaches, Powell turns around and mimics the rhythm with his index fingers—and he and Carr both smile. At the end of the song, which is one of their favorites, Carr and bass guitarist Tim Gibson bump fists.

“There’s this freshness to the show,” Carr says. “Obviously, there’s gonna be for us, having a whole other artist up there with us the whole night and playing his songs. It’s been challenging to learn them and play them as a band, but it’s been refreshing in a way…” | READ full story on ThirdDay.com