Sunday, June 30, 2002

Musical acts draw younger audience

By Larry Nager
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        “We got any Jesus freaks out there?” It was a new look for the Billy Graham Mission. That was obvious long before dc Talk's tobyMac shouted that question to the screaming teens Saturday at Paul Brown Stadium.

Annie Schultz, 18. of Delaware, Ohio and Jenna Emerson, 14, of Georgetown, Ind., react to the band dc Talk during their concert.
(Brandi Stafford photo)
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Kirk Franklin (centers) performs with dc Talk's Michael Tait and Toby McKeehan.
(Brandi Stafford photo)
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James Blanchard, 11 of Hamilton holds hands with others during Kirk Franklinšs concert.
(Brandi Stafford photo)
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        With computerized lighting grids, a massive sound system, elaborate video and two multi-platinum acts — dc Talk and Kirk Franklin, the Concert for the Next Generation harnessed all the power of state-of-the-art stadium rock for the service of evangelical Christianity.

        They got their message across.

        “I'm here to see Kirk Franklin,” said Jamarria Jones, 11, from Avondale. “It's Christian music, but it's hip-hop, too.”

        Nicki Hensley, 14, came from Mount Orab to see dc Talk. “They have the hard-rock, head-banging type of music. It's hard to find good music like that. You look at all the other music, and it's cussing and things you shouldn't be thinking about, like drugs and sex and stuff like that.”

        Dc Talk delivered its grunge anthem, “Jesus Freaks,” as the crowd pogo-ed up and down on the field's padded turf protector.

        Kirk Franklin opened the evening with a 30-minute set that mixed the leader's rapping, preaching and classic soul-man dance moves with the rich harmonies of a 12-member choir and a tight, funky five-man band.

        But his message was disarmingly funny and real. Saying he was proud to be in Cincinnati with the Graham mission, he added the punchline, “Where else can a black man stand in front of all these white people and talk about the love of Jesus?”

        Dc Talk got an even bigger response, despite the fact that member Kevin Max wasn't there.

        Remaining members tobyMac and Michael Tait opened with “Say the Words” and ran through as many hits that could fit in 30 minutes.

        TobyMac also read from the Bible and recited the Lord's Prayer, each time eliciting deafening shrieks.

        Those shrieks were heard again when tobyMac introduced the concert's real star, the Rev. Mr. Graham.


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