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Town Talk: My night as a (lapsed) Roman (Catholic) in an arena filled with (the music of contemporary) Christians

Nick Hall appeared Winter Jam Hoffman Estates Feb. 23 2013. | Courtesy JamTour.Com NewSong Ministries Inc.

Nick Hall appeared at Winter Jam in Hoffman Estates on Feb. 23, 2013. | Courtesy JamTour.Com and NewSong Ministries Inc.

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Updated: March 26, 2013 6:11AM



So I headed to the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates Saturday for my first Christian music concert, the Winter Jam, a sort of Lollapalooza for the faithful, albeit a more affordable festival.

That’s to say, but for a limited number of $30 - $50 early admissions, it was $10 to park and $10 at the door for most - meaning the line of cars was long to the lot by 4:30 p.m. for an advertised start time of 6 p.m.

By the time I got in shortly after 5 p.m., the action already had started. The Capital Kings - dressed like nerdy NBA stars - were electro-popping and deejaying for the Lord, yet throwing a bit of Psy’s Korean dance-pop sensation “Gangnam Style” into the duo’s mix.

Yes, there were glow sticks and glow tubes in the crowd, which are always sort of odd to see at any family-friendly fest if you know anything about their ties to raves and the drug MDMA (aka ecstasy).

Next up was OBB, who once performed Cheap Tricks’ “I Want You to Want Me” on national TV. But when the Oswald brothers sing “All I Need is You,” these days, the “you” they mean is Jesus.

Blue-eyed, dreadlocked Jason Castro of “American Idol” fame is part of the tour, too. One of Castro’s shining moments on the talent show was covering Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” which isn’t exactly a praise song. So Castro just offered a bit of its chorus among his tunes.

I’m gonna be like an Amazon.com algorithm about the next acts - which is fitting because the concert was very connected to the Internet and social media.

You could Tweet your way to front row seats, win tour “merch” or Chick-Fil-A grub, follow the bands on Facebook, watch a YouTube video the tour made of their version of “Harlem Shake,” or sign up to sponsor a Third World child through World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization. For $35 a month, you could do the latter in the lobby or at your seats, too - so if you like one-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Bono, you might have liked some of the vibe of this show.

If you like the pop-soul stylings of Bruno Mars, you should enjoy Royal Tailor.

Self-proclaimed “God Girl” Jamie Grace, 20, is a little bit Feist and other indie folkies, a little Jack Johnson, maybe a splash of Taylor Swift and a little island music, as best exemplified with “Hold Me,” a catchy duet with TobyMac, the 48-year-old, Grammy-winning Christian rock-rapper who headlined the concert.

If you like U2, Bon Jovi, Celtic Thunder, Billy and the Beaters, and power ballads like they play after sports title games you might like Winter Jam founders NewSong.

You might also like Sidewalk Prophets, who played a LEGO video in their pleasant pop-rock set that featured, in separate scenes, LEGO Darth Vader and LEGO Jesus on the cross.

And if you like Ministry, Blue Man Group, fiery special effects and industrial metal bands where the singers sound like Cookie Monster, you might enjoy Red.

In fact, overall the special effects were worthy of a Madonna concert, where there is no doubt they would be put to more profane purposes. She would have loved the big disco ball.

Plenty of sort-of hipsters were present on stage and off, as well, as signified by striped “Where’s Waldo?” style shirts, pork pie hats, cabbie caps, scruffy beards, thick-rimmed glasses and trucker caps.

Most out of place was the teen in the Great America-like line waiting to get in wearing his Hot Topic studded belt and a T-shirt for The Misfits, a very secular punk band that formed in the late 1970s.

Then again, speaker/youth communicator Nick Hall mashed up Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” and a bit of Guns N’ Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle” in a video he showed about his young son.

Dressed in skinny jeans, Converse All Stars, jacket, T-shirt and fedora, Hall’s theme for the digital age theme for the night was reset and recharge. He urged audience members to “download the playlist of heaven,” and to find purple waste bins set up in the lobby where they could literally or figuratively (by writing down them down) toss out the things holding them back.

Hall also showed pop video clips from the likes of Psy, Katy Perry, Justin Bieber and One Direction. He was trying to point out how such videos and lyrics promote materialistic, hedonistic, destructive lifestyles, but the images of the heartthrob boy singers brought some of the loudest cheers and squeals of the night, particularly from girls.

In a sad way, as a writer, I could relate to Hall’s dilemma: Who pays that much attention to words anymore?

For me, though, it was time to leave, missing final acts Matthew West and TobyMac to join a birthday party at The Improv in Schaumburg.

Coincidentally, comic Adam Ferrara brought up religion, too, with bits about the retiring pope, an aunt’s oscillating Jesus fan, a Roman centurion facing his boss after the Resurrection, and growing up in Queens thinking he was personally responsible for the crucifixion.

A quote of Ferrara’s found online: “I am a Catholic. Basically the Catholic religion is ‘If it feels good - stop.’”

I know of which he speaks, so this is where I will end this piece.



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