Third Day, tobyMac, Michael W. Smith, Max Lucado, and special guest Jason Gray shine a light on child sponsorships at this year’s “Make A Difference 2010” tour. Sponsored by World Vision, the evening is a collaborative effort among all three A-level artists as well as well-known author and speaker Max Lucado. While the show is certainly entertaining, the spotlight is intentionally taken off the artists on stage and redirected to the millions of children around the world living in poverty. All of the artists on the tour, including opener Jason Gray, are long-time supporters of World Vision, and from the first guitar strums of the event, it was evident that the evening was going to be about more than simply music.
On the second night of the tour, in Corbin, Ky., Jason Gray kicked off a three-song set with a larger-than life video screen spanning the length of the stage behind him and his acoustic guitar. He talked briefly about his work with World Vision and played a short set that included his current radio hit, “More Like Falling In Love.”
A few minutes later, the lights went down, and tobyMac and the Diverse City Band took the stage, a stark contrast to Gray’s mellow acoustic musings. Toby’s set began with the title track from his new album, Tonight (ForeFront). The only thing better would have been if Skillet’s John Cooper had made a cameo on stage just like he does on the record. (Fans will just have to wait to see them both perform the track live together on this year’s “Winter Wonder Slam”!) The ever energetic singer/rapper flew through one hit right after the other knocking out all of the usual fan favorites, including “Get Back Up,” “Made To Love,” “Funky Jesus Music,” “Lose My Soul,” “Irene” and more. Mid-set, a few songs were played acoustically and featured the talent of Toby’s trumpet player. Of course, no tobyMac set would be complete without a rendition of “Jesus Freak,” the song that put the ‘Mac’ in tobyMac. The 45-minute set was a veritable carnival onstage with bright colors and lights, eclectic sound effects and a combination of flips, jumps and grooves, leaving audience members who have seen Mac in concert before shaking their heads in awe of the 40-something’s entertaining stage presence night after night. The set ended appropriately loud and proud with “Boomin’.”
Keeping the festivities moving right along, a spotlight then shone on a small stage set up toward the back of the arena floor where Michael W. Smith was on piano and Third Day’s Mac Powell was on acoustic guitar crooning lyrics to “God of Wonders.” The men led the audience in several worship songs, giving everyone’s blown eardrums a rest and providing some nice entertainment in between set changes. TobyMac soon joined them on the smaller stage for a rendition of “In The Light.” While Powell and Toby soon exited the stage, Michael led the audience in a few more songs. Then, Max Lucado made his first appearance of the evening, providing some solid words of encouragement and perspective behind the reason for the tour.
Third Day was up next and kicked it into high gear. Opening with “Otherside,” the band hit a mix of old and new material, with everything from “Creed” to “Revelation” and “Call My Name.” The band even gave die-hard fans a treat with a stunning version of “Thief.” While several albums in their impressive discography were glossed over, the band did preview three new tracks from its forthcoming studio album, Move (Essential), including southern rock gem “Gone” and new single “Lift Up Your Face.” The band closed their set with the fitting new song “Children of God.” Countless colorful photos of children from around the world played on the screen behind them. This provided the perfect segue way for Max Lucado to take the stage again and talk about his experiences with World Vision and how the organization was providing attendees with a tangible way to “make a difference” that very evening. Through all of the promotional efforts surrounding Lucado’s new book, Outlive Your Life (Thomas Nelson), the author’s goal is to get 25,000 children sponsored through World Vision.
After a short intermission, Michael W. Smith took the stage with a full band for a quieter, more worshipful set. In between worship songs, which Smith has now become known for, the industry veteran also mixed in some old hits as well as debuted new material from his brand-new album, Wonder (Reunion), including new single “Save Me From Myself.” He shared some stories behind some of the new songs, revealing the deep, and sometimes hard things, that these songs expose, reminding those in attendance of Smith’s gift for thought-provoking music and lyrics. Setting a worshipful tone for the finale, Smith was joined onstage once again by Mac Powell, tobyMac and Jason Gray for “City On Our Knees” (one of Toby’s biggest hits to date). The musicians ended the night on neutral ground with a song none of them wrote or recorded–anthem “God of This City.” Max Lucado closed out the evening with his sweet, gentle manner, encouraging people to take action and make a difference in their own community.
This line-up generally isn’t a group of artists that would tour together, which makes the event that much more memorable. The styles of these artists may be vastly different, but their hearts align in ministry and message. They are all intent on getting as many children sponsored on this tour as possible and are working toward a common goal. They did an excellent job of intertwining the artists and providing time and space for some unique collaborations. In addition, the evening moved at a nice pace. Though there was over three hours of music, nothing seemed to drag. The spotlight was decidedly on World Vision and not on any one artist. It was a great evening of good entertainment, providing a little something for everyone, and a beautiful picture of community.
To see if the “Make a Difference 2010” tour is coming to your area, visit www.makeadifferencetour.com.