AN EXCLUSIVE NRT CONCERT REPORT
A Night With Chris Tomlin and Rend Collective Experiment
NRT contributor Kevin Davis shares his night with Rend Collective Experiment and Chris Tomlin in Hershey, PA on March 18, 2011.
 


If you like praise & worship, don’t hesitate to attend the current And If Our God Is For Us…tour featuring Rend Collective Experiment and Chris Tomlin. Both artists recently released solid new worship albums and I had the privilege to attend their show on Friday, March 18th in Hershey, PA. Hailing from Bangor, Northern Ireland, Rend Collective Experiment’s acclaim began at home as a movement of 20-somethings that has now begun to spread across Europe to the Americas and beyond. The modern worship sounds of this band are receiving praise as their debut album, Organic Family Hymnal, hits stores. I had the great privilege to interview band members Chris Llewellyn and Gareth Gilkeson before the concert about their newest single, “Come On” for my “behind the song” devotional series. As they told me before the show, and as they opened the concert with this great song, it is a call to worship and to ready our whole selves to worship and praise our Savior, Jesus. 
 
Next came one of my all-time favorite new worship songs, Movements.” I can’t get enough of this great song. I am especially comforted by the truth of the lyrics of the song which come straight from Isaiah 40:30-31Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.  

You can sing “Movements” to God with all of your heart, and know that God wants to hear from you. Accept Jesus as your personal Savior and The Holy Spirit will come make a home in you. When you get weak, stand firm and make movements towards God. He will never leave or forsake you.  The crowd was really getting into this great band and they followed up with an amazing performance of the ancient Irish hymn, “Be Thou My Vision.” Rend Collective Experiment ended their excellent 4 song set with their own hymn re-write of “I Stand Amazed” with a stirring performance of “You Bled.” We were all singing the gorgeous chorus at the top of our lungs, “How marvelous, how boundless, Is Your love, is Your love, How wonderful, sacrificial, Is Your love for me.”  As for the group’s unusual moniker, Rend Collective Experiment is a nod to the places in Scripture where it says to “rend your hearts and not your garments, a bold call to be genuine."
 
Rend Collective had us completely warmed up, and I have to add that they are one of the best opening bands I’ve ever seen for a concert. They set the bar pretty high on what to expect for an opening to a concert, and there was a buzz of anticipation as we watched a countdown leading to Chris Tomlin taking the stage. With six records, nine No. 1 radio singles, three GRAMMY nominations, 16 Dove Awards, a platinum and two gold albums to his credit, Chris Tomlin is among the most well-known and influential artists in contemporary Christian music. Time Magazine referred to him as most likely “the most often sung artist anywhere,” as it is estimated that over 40 million people sing his songs in church each week worldwide. In addition to having sold more than 3.1 million albums and over 3.7 million digital tracks, Tomlin also continues his role as worship leader at Passion City Church in Atlanta, GA.
 

©2011 Nicole Murphy
 
My favorite Chris Tomlin songs have generally been the new live recordings found on the Passion worship collections, going back to "We Fall Down," "Enough," "How Great Is Our God" and "God Of This City." This was my first time seeing Chris Tomlin in concert and as I hoped, the event was more of a worship experience than a concert as the focus of the night was completely on our Lord and Savior. Chris surprised me by opening with hit song “Our God,” the anthemic declaration of faith that spent numerous weeks on top of the Christian radio charts. The bridge of the song is the basis of the album title and tour, And If Our God Is For Us… Next, the hooky guitar intro led to Chris belting out “Your Grace Is Enough.” Musically, this event was top notch as the level of musicianship was unparalleled and if anything I might have gotten a little spoiled considering that I normally sing these songs along with an acoustic guitar and djembe. Mega-hit song “I Will Follow” took it up a notch with the heavy synth-rock style and harmonizing by the other band members, including the ultra-talented Christy Nockels. “Forever” kept the upbeat praise and worship going and we didn’t sit down until the next set of acoustic worship songs, which were a highlight of the evening for me.
 
Just Chris and his guitarist sat down and treated us to a great selection of songs, starting with acoustic guitar led performances of “Indescribable” and “Holy Is The Lord.” Next we all sang “I Will Rise,” which finished with the full band rejoining on stage and had the crowd back on our feet singing the amazing bridge, “I hear the voice of many angels sing, Worthy is the Lamb.” What I loved was how I was getting a glimpse of eternity singing to our God forever and ever. We picked the tempo back up with incredible new songs from Passion: Here For You, starting with “All My Fountains.” The guitar part is one of the best musical hooks I’ve ever heard and the song was meant to be sung loudly with the church body. Christy treated us to a gorgeous performance of “Waiting,” which is also on the new Passion: Here For You album.  
 
The last song before Louie Giglio gave a great message was the worship anthem, “Sing, Sing, Sing.” I had always liked the song before, but this was a big song of the night with the crowd all dancing in the aisles and belting out our praise to our King like David dancing before God in the Bible. That led perfectly to Louie Giglio delivering a very inspiring message somewhat based on his Indescribable and How Great Is Our God DVD’s where we learned about the Creator of the universe and how we were all created to worship and praise our God. The planets bow before Him, the whales sing to Him, and as His created beings in His image, we are all made to worship Him. As David says in Psalm 145:3-7
 
3 Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; 
   his greatness no one can fathom. 
4 One generation commends your works to another; 
   they tell of your mighty acts. 
5 They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty— 
   and I will meditate on your wonderful works. 
6 They tell of the power of your awesome works— 
   and I will proclaim your great deeds. 
7 They celebrate your abundant goodness 
   and joyfully sing of your righteousness. 

After Louie finished speaking we all sang “I Lift My Hands,” which musically reminds me of “Unchanging.” I attended the concert with my friend Tony who is the worship leader from my church. We sing “Jesus Messiah” on a regular basis and it was a real treat to sing the amazing chorus at the top of my lungs “Jesus Messiah, Name above all Names…Blessed Redeemer, Emmanuel.” The video screens showed the lyrics and the Rend Collective band members had carried a wooden cross and placed it in a stand on the stage before we sang this incredible anthem of faith. Chris closed with a heartfelt rendition of “How Great Is Our God.” There wasn’t a person in the arena who wasn’t lifting their hands and we were singing out the words of the award winning worship song with all of our being. 
 

©2011 Nicole Murphy
 
The crowd kept cheering for our Savior and King Jesus and when Chris and the band returned to the stage, first Christy sang the verses of “Amazing Grace” and then Chris and the capacity crowd joined in with the chorus “My Chains Are Gone.” As we weren’t ready to leave just yet, Chris finished with a rocking performance of “No Chains On Me,” which musically reminds me of “Your Grace Is Enough.” We then sang just the chorus and bridge of “Our God.” The final song of the night was an acapella singing of “The Heart of Worship” by Matt Redman. Chris and his band members and all six members of Rend Collective sang the heart-felt worship song together and at one point I got choked up singing the truth, “I’m sorry Lord for the thing I’ve made it…It’s all about You, Jesus.”
 
I had spoken with some Chris Tomlin fans in the seats next to me before the show and they were very excited to hear their favorite songs performed live and the crowd response to every song was beyond enthusiastic. I can’t say I’ve ever heard louder singing and seen more hands raised than at this worship event. If you like singing these songs in church, then you’ll love singing these worship standards with thousands of fellow believers.  The theme of the night was how the bigger “church” of the world is united by these songs and clearly no matter your church denomination, these songs cross all boundaries and bring our unified belief in One True God together as we all sang these songs of the faith “together in one accord.”
 

©2011 Nicole Murphy

Kevin Davis is a long time fan of Christian music, an avid music collector and credits the message of Christian music for leading him to Christ. Kevin also writes reviews for ChristianMusicReview.org.

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