World Vision is known as one of the leading organization’s in social justice, and this week they brought their mission to Australia using the platform of music to share their message. Titled the Make A Difference Tour, Grammy Award winning Christian rock band, Third Day, were headliners, supported by good friends, NEEDTOBREATHE, and up and coming Aussie musician Levi McGrath. Taking the line up all over the country, their Melbourne leg took place at Festival Hall, and even the pouring rain couldn’t keep fans from all over the state away as the sound escalating from the amps quickly overtook the thunder outside.
Melbournite Levi McGrath took to the stage first, warming up the audience as they shook off the rain (quite literally) and readied themselves for a great night of music. Owning the stage with his acoustic set, he engaged in conversation and his rich vocals spoke of love and justice. A perfect opening for the bands to follow, NEEDTOBREATHE then began their set. And while they were labelled a “support” act, the overwhelming response from the audience was equal to that of the main event.
Wearing his trademark broad brimmed hat, lead singer Bear Rinehart was electrifying as they opened with, “The Devil’s Been Talking.” Guitarist Bo Rinehart strolled across the stage with gusto and ease through the set, and they continued with the catchy, “State I’m In.” Speaking to the audience, they recounted this as their first journey to Australia, and after promising to come back, if just for the coffee, they ushered in the Grammy nominated hit, “Multiplied” before “Oh, Carolina,” lit up the stage and Bo owned a good portion of the song with a superb guitar solo.
Aside from the quality musicianship of the entire band through their set, NEEDTOBREATHE highlighted their status as world class performers through their interaction with the audience. Each of the five musicians on stage actively engaged with the crowd, and whether it was Josh Lovelace behind the keys or Seth Bolt playing a combination of guitar and percussion, they were never switched off but consistently delivering the message of the lyrics and spurring on the theatre to join them.
“Something Beautiful,” followed, and they continued to throw it back with their 2009 hit, “Outsiders.” Wrapping up a phenomenal set, the group stripped it back and made room for Bear to speak to the audience. While he noted that he didn’t normally speak so openly during a gig so as not to cultivate a particular reaction, he talked about the meaning of the next song, “Brother.” Recently released as a duet with Gavin DeGraw, the song which was written by the Bo for his brother came out of the band’s season of re-evaluation. Saying, “Nothing’s more important than the people you love,” the two brothers sang the poignant song before the rest of the band joined them as an acoustic back up. It was the perfect end to a blazing set, and opened up the stage for World Vision to invite a sponsored child from Cambodia up to speak about the phenomenal difference sponsorship had made in her life over the past decade.
Headliners Third Day then stepped up, and the proceeded to deliver no less than 20 tunes from their career spanning over three decades, the whole time engaging the audience and giving a rock show that showcased their years of experience.
Lead singer Mac Powell left the audience enamored in “Kicking And Screaming,” and they followed with “Sing A Song,” and “Otherside.” A family friendly show, it was cool to observe the audience full of people of all ages actively enjoying the music. While the band may have been the sound of many of the audience’s youth, their ability to perform a quality show and continually write terrific music was marked by the steadfastness of their fans commitment across all ages.
Third Day then took us to church (note: very cool church) with “I Believe,” and sang, “Beautiful,” before reminiscing with “I Will Always Love You,” and “Born Again.” Scoring favor with the crowd by shouting, “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!” and chatting casually, it was clear that after 2 decades the chemistry in the band is a strong as ever as Mac and guitarist Mark Lee bantered about their day in Melbourne before they opened the floor for audience requests and quick, acoustic renditions of “Just To Be With You,” and “My Hope Is You,” were followed by an on point full rendition of, “Your Love Oh Lord.” Unplanned and overcoming technical difficulties, which were only noticeable because they had to call drummer David Carr back on stage, Third Day were flawless and utterly professional in their delivery.
Covering the hymn, “Blessed Assurance,” before stepping into their hit, “Cry Out To Jesus.” Beautiful and powerful, the band took the audience to another place. Quietening down, Mac spoke about the meaning of the song before the band played, “I Need A Miracle.” A song formed out of the story the band heard about a boy who had his life saved through “Cry Out To Jesus,” a captivating night took an even more poignant turn as Mac shared the heart of the band saying, “God is still In the business of changing lives.” For someone who frequently talks about the disparity in quality between the secular and Christian music industry, this moment was a brilliant reminder of the heart behind music and the power it can have in our lives.
Singing, “Make Your Move,” before jamming to their latest release “Soul On Fire,” they then ended on the empowering, “Revelation” before they exited the stage. Of course the audience demanded more, and our cries and roar was rewarded with a double encore from the group. Singing, “Tunnel” before closing with the moving, “Lord of All Creation,” and the band exited to applause.
There is no other way to describe the Melbourne leg of the Make A Difference Tour than to say we went to church, and it was a dang, good church service. Throwing out the boring, and sticking to moving and riveting melodies, the practicality of expressing love to your family and people on the other side of the world was paramount through the night. With a stage show that was worthy of any big arena tour, the gig was certainly not your average rock concert, but still contained the phenomenal quality we would expect from such entertainers.