As a young tween, I listened almost exclusively to Christian music. (No one has ever accused me of being cool). I had four favorite bands: DC Talk, Audio Adrenaline, the Newsboys and Jars of Clay. Only one of those bands (Jars) still exists in its original form — and God bless them, I still love that band.
Formed in 1989, DC Talk was my very first concert in the mid-90s, at the height of their popularity and “Jesus Freak” tour. I also saw them on what ended up being their farewell tour, “Supernatural.” They performed at the Gorge at Creation Fest and we all booed when they announced they would be taking a short hiatus to work on solo projects. Everyone knew it was lies — no one goes solo and then comes back together. Particularly because of the three solo sets they performed that day, only TobyMac’s (Toby McKeehan) was any good. He’s the only one that’s actually making it as a solo artist, and his latest release debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in 2012.
Michael Tait’s solo project tanked. Kevin Max has released seven albums since the break, but nothing nearing the success of TobyMac.
I miss DC Talk. TobyMac’s rap is OK, but I enjoyed the harmony the three of them developed together. “Supernatural” is still one of my favorite albums.
But the realm of Christian music may be even smaller than mainstream rock: Two talented singer-songwriters don’t sit on the bench for long. And those ‘90s bands need to stick together.
In 2009, Newsboys frontman Peter Furler stepped down as lead singer of the New Zealand pop band. They picked up DC Talk’s Tait to front the group, and while Furler still writes, the vocal presentation it hugely different. They aren’t the band from Down Under I grew up with, and Furler’s solo projects still sound more like the Newsboys to me.
Completing the mid-90s band takeover: Kevin Max was named the new lead singer of Audio Adrenaline last year, replacing founding member Mark Stuart, who no longer sings because for health reasons. Audio A dissolved in 2007, with their last album, “Until My Heart Caves in” coming out in 2005. Like Furler, Stuart still writes for his band, which I suppose is meant to offer some consistency.
You can judge if that works for yourself on March 4, when the new-Newsboys will be performing at the Capitol Theatre in Yakima as part of their “God’s Not Dead” tour.
On one hand, I’m hopeful. The Newsboys were some of the most fun concerts I ever attended. They have great showmanship and always built fantastic sets. But do I want to hear Tait sing “Take Me To Your Leader” or “Shine”? More importantly — will he? Or will the band (and the new Audio A) focus instead of new music in order to create a new fanbase? If your first experience listening to their older music is hearing it from a new, vastly different singer, picking up a copy of Furler-lead album may be something of a shock.
Most importantly for me: What happens to the DC Talk music? With all three members now leading successful other projects, when will we ever hear “Jesus Freak” live again? Can we hit an Audio Adrenaline show and have “Some Kind of Zombie” followed up by “Colored People”? Can someone convince all three groups to come together as some sort of weird super-tour?
There is a key difference between Christian music breakups from mainstream ones: The artists are still friends, or pretend to be. There usually aren’t drug blowouts and ugly, public fights over music rights. DC Talk still gets together for the occassional song or charity shindig. A full-fledged reunion isn’t on the horizon, but at least we can once again hear all the pieces of the group on the radio.
And live on a stage near you.
• Savannah Tranchell is the writer of the Appetite blog for the Yakima Herald-Republic, but knows much more about the Christian music scene than the Backstage Pass blogger, whose favorite bands usually involve much more swearing.