by Annette Holloway

Winter Jam, Christian music’s largest annual tour, set up its unique 360º stage in Norfolk Scope, which happens to be the world’s largest reinforced thin-shell concrete dome. Walking in at show time on February 24th, one could see nearly 10,000 people wrapped around the venue, waiting to enjoy an incredible lineup headlined by one of the most influential bands in Christian music history. This Christian supergroup Newsboys United consists of current Newsboys lead vocalist Michael Tait, Jeff Frankenstein (keys, vocals), Duncan Phillips (drums) and Jody Davis (guitar, vocals), along with former founding member Peter Furler (lead vocals, guitar, drums) and former bassist Phil Joel (bass guitar, vocals). They combined forces to bring their fans both classic and current Newsboys favorites.

In an explosion of light, Newsboys Michael Tait proclaimed, “Here we go!” and began with the 2010 hit “Born Again.” Tait sailed around all sectors of the stage with endless energy ensuring all were included throughout the songs “That’s How You Change the World” and “Live With Abandon.”  After the chorus of “He Reigns,” Furler and Joel joined the celebration among a sea of arms swaying to the beat. Much to the crowd’s delight, Furler then sang several Newsboys classic favorites including “I Am Free” and “Breakfast” with Davis belting backup vocals.

Tait joined them back on stage for “Something Beautiful,” then the audience enjoyed two new songs from the Newsboys United album.  First, the upcoming release “Only the Son (Yeshua),” sounded like a combination of worship and pop with an Australian flavor, containing rhythmic elements which kept the fans moving. The mood soared when Tait began the 2013 hit “We Believe” with a circle of cell phone lights, and the crowd-turned-choir’s voices nearly drowned out those on stage.  This anthem seamlessly segued into a second song on the new album, “Greatness of Our God.” Often wondering how they would sound together, I stood in awe of how Tait and Furler, with their somewhat different vocal styles, blended so beautifully.

As if Michael and Peter singing together wasn’t enough, things became even more surreal.  After photographing Newsboys a dozen times in the past few years, I was surprised there was no Duncan Phillips on drums during the iconic song, “Jesus Freak.” Peter Furler took over the kit center stage, but without Phillips’ signature tilting/spinning drum riser. However, as the song concluded, Duncan made his presence known aloft beside the stage, where he and Furler entered a drum battle much to the delight of the audience.  To end the night, Tait had fans jumping while roaring the lyrics of their Platinum®-certified hit, “God’s Not Dead (Like a Lion).”

Newsboys United will release their first album, United, on May 10th, 2019.



Danny Gokey, 2017 GRAMMY® nominee and top three finisher on American Idol, encouraged and inspired with “Hope in Front of Me,” “Tell Your Heart to Beat Again,” and “The Comeback.” Danny ascended the stage singing TobyMac’s part with Idol alum Mandisa in “Bleed the Same,” which addresses racial division and encourages unity. Mandisa’s music and performance radiated positivity and encouragement, as she testified to how God raised her out of the dark in songs such as “I’m Still Here,” “Unfinished,” “Overcomer,” and “Good News.” Also with an overcomer attitude, Skillet drummer and female solo rocker Ledger, entered Winter Jam via white chariot to her hard-hitting anthem, “Warrior.” Fans also enjoyed hearing a gentler, newly-released song, “Completely.” Encouraging others to persevere, Jen testified how God helped her battle times of fear and anxiety, which inspired fan favorite, “I’m Not Dead Yet.”

GRAMMY®-nominated tour founders NewSong, are still hosting and performing after 24 years. With their signature harmonies, the band thrilled gospel-lovers with the songs “I Am a Christian” and “Arise My Love.” The powerhouse vocals of Russ Lee, Eddie Carswell and Billy Goodwin show no signs of slowing down, and neither do the guitar riffs of Rico Thomas. Hollyn exploded onto the stage building the night’s momentum with the fiery anthem “Love With Your Life.” Hailing from Ireland, Rend Collective brought a massive care-free celebration of the Good News with streamers, bubbles, and more.

The Pre-Jam Party features three artists, including Manic Drive, who is no newcomer to the music industry.  Formed in 2004 this Canadian pop/rock powerhouse already has six albums and has won numerous awards. The “boys from the six” kicked off the night with “Mic Drop” and “Easier,” both from their recent album “Into the Wild,” and finished with 2014 hit song “VIP.” Finishing the Pre-Jam Party were hip-hop recording artist Ty Brasel, and the soulful Dan Bremnes.

The tour also includes special guest, Adam Agee, and a Gospel presentation from Dare2Share speakers Greg Stier or Zane Black.  As of March 18, there have been over 30,000 indications of salvation with 2 more weekends left on the tour.

Newsboys United Setlist (singer):
Born Again (Tait) / That’s How You Change the World (Tait) / Live With Abandon (Tait) / He Reigns (Tait & Furler) / I Am Free (Furler) / Breakfast (Furler) / Something Beautiful (Furler & Tait) / Only the Son (Yeshua) (Tait & Furler) / We Believe (Tait) / Greatness of Our God (Tait & Furler) / Jesus Freak (Tait) / (drum battle between Phillips and Furler) / God’s Not Dead (Like a Lion) (Tait)

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