Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Festival leaves worship in wake

By Linda Wakefield Kelley
Enquirer contributor

Bigger and better. That's the pithy review of this year's Spirit Song Festival at Paramount's Kings Island last weekend.

Its billing as the Midwest's largest contemporary Christian music festival seems a credible claim given the 25 hours of music from 27 performances on two stages.

Here's my Top 10 highlights:

10. TimberWolf Amphitheater was the site of the "big name" Christian acts. But a debut stage at the International Showcase featured next year's potential headliners. Acts such as the noteworthy Broken Yoke just might excite a Creed or Korn addict.

9. Skillet T-shirts reading "Skillet Chicks Rock." The male members of the band do OK, too. "You're Powerful" and "Alien Youth" cranked up the audience.

8. Ex-Guardian frontman Jamie Rowe showed up in the secular band London Calling. Rowe's haunting vocals are still riveting.

7. Avalon emerged on stage with two new faces. Melissa Greene replaced Cheri Adams recently. Michael Passions also has left and surprise replacement was Greg Long, husband of member Janna Long. The group never sounded better.

6. Michael W. Smith sang an oldie called "Breakdown" while racing about waving a large American flag.

5. Smith explained "worship" is the latest buzzword in Christian music. Everyone has a worship CD out. But worship is more than an event, he warned. It's a lifestyle.

Nevertheless, songs such as the Newsboys' "He Reigns," Smith's "Amazing Love" and Third Day's "Show Me Your Glory" permeated this event beautifully.

4. A teenage boy and an 8-year-old girl reached a free CD thrown from the stage at the same time. The boy gave it to the girl, making her day. Maybe that's the worship in action Smitty was talking about.

3. New artist Sarah Kelly has a bright future. Jennifer Knapp-like vocals blasted from her minute body and sent shivers up spines.

2. ZOEgirl didn't dance! Their sound was great, though.

1. Toby Mac sans his dc Talk cohorts was impressive. What a fantastic mix of rap and funk combined with high-energy dancing.

"That's the show I'm going to be talking about on Monday," the man next to me said. Me, too.

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