TobyMac Night of Joy

TobyMac performs on the castle stage at Night of Joy 2011.

Yesterday, we detailed the rain-filled events of Friday night at this year’s Night of Joy. The second evening was equally as fun! While the rain held off, Saturday night’s crowd was considerably thicker, which meant longer lines at popular rides like Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain. The excitement from the clusters of youth groups attending was palpable. Saturday night’s line-up was just as strong as Friday night’s: Jars of Clay, TobyMac, MercyMe, Sanctus Real, Kutless, Marvin Sapp, VaShawn Mitchell and Chris August.

Sanctus Real‘s performance was so packed that only a lucky few made it into the Galaxy Stage area to see their performance, which was sure to be amazing as Matt Hammitt & Co. just keep getting better. Fortunately, for those like me, who weren’t able to get in to catch them, they will be joining Casting Crowns out on the road this fall for their massive “Come to the Well” tour, keeping their visibility high.

For those unable to get in to see Sanctus Real, there was more room in front of the main castle stage, where many migrated to check out Jars of Clay‘s tight set, which included a wealth of hits spanning their long career, as well as selections from their community-driven release, The Shelter (Essential).

Meanwhile, youth leaders were treated to several exclusive acoustic performances in the Youth Leader Lounge sponsored by Word Records. Meredith Andrews belted out a flawless rendition of her hit “You’re Not Alone,” while also sharing a few new songs. Plus, in a surprise appearance, BarlowGirl played a 50-minute set. The sisters have been on a sabbatical from touring, taking time off the road to rest and write for a new album. The acoustic setting allowed their beautiful harmonies to take center stage as they showcased rock selections as well as some of their most popular ballads. The girls gave a huge shout-out of thank-yous to the youth leaders in the room and ended their set with a brand-new, mid-tempo song about patiently waiting for God to fulfill the dreams He places on our hearts.

BarlowGirl Night of Joy

BarlowGirl makes a surprise appearance in the Youth Leader Lounge at Night of Joy 2011.

Reigning Male Vocalist of the Year Chris August played the Youth Leader Lounge the prior night, but he took to one of the larger stages Saturday. He played two back-to-back sets on the Rockettower Plaza Stage in Tomorrowland. The budding singer/songwriter drew quite a crowd of onlookers as he delivered everything from his mega-hit “Starry Night” and his stirring ballad about forgiveness, “7 x 70” to his infamous “Candy Wrap.” He did a few cover songs as well and bantered with the audience, proving that his comedic side is definitely more prevalent than his serious side.

Afterwards, fans rushed back to the main castle stage to catch the king of hip-hop do his thing. TobyMac wowed the audience with a packed 60 minutes of high-energy pop, rock, rap and funk complete with the Diverse City Band. Few artists can work a crowd like TobyMac, and he had this audience, filled to capacity with youth groups, eating out of the palm of his hand as he covered everything from “Tonight” and “City on Our Knees” to “Hold On,” “Boomin'” and “Jesus Freak.”

Right before Toby took the stage, this year’s GMA Immerse winner Rachel Barrentine gave a stirring performance. Each year, Night of Joy gives the Immerse winner an all-expense paid trip to Walt Disney World and a high-profile performance slot at Night of Joy–definite incentive to compete at next year’s Immerse event in Nashville!

Perennial Night of Joy favorites MercyMe took the stage to close out the event. While there were no pyrotechnics during their set, the clear sound of thousands of voices singing every word to “All of Creation,” “Word of God Speak” and the legendary “I Can Only Imagine” was infinitely better than all the glitz and awe castle fireworks could inspire.

Even after the last live note had been played and the last performance of the night had ended, Christian music could still be heard all the way down Mainstream U.S.A. as attendees headed back to the Monorail singing along to the strains  of local Christian station Z88.3 playing throughout the park. And that’s perhaps one of the best parts. Long after the lights go down and the last firework has exploded, the music lives on.

Night of Joy 2011 LogoThe memories and the songs of the weekend will live in our hearts and minds until next year when Disney’s Night of Joy will celebrate 30 years. If year 29 was this fantastic, I can’t wait to see what kind of magic they have up their sleeve for year 30! One thing is for sure…You won’t want to miss it! Next year. Night of Joy 2012. Be there.

Did you attend Night of Joy this year? What was your favorite part? Do you plan to go to Night of Joy next year?