Internationally renowned Christian rockers Jars of Clay inundated the Life Center Gym in Bluffton Saturday night with an intriguing, intimate performance. All the players were in fine form as the band showcased its hits from the last seven years, spanning four albums.
The show kicked off with a scaled-back intro to the band's very first song, "Liquid." Jars then plunged into "Disappear," the first of many songs to beplayed from its latest album "The Eleventh Hour." Hits "Unforgetful You" and "Crazy Times," displaying guitarist Stephen Mason's soaring solo, followed.
"We want this show to be less of a concert and more of a sing-along," lead singer Dan Haseltine said.
He gamely traded lyrics with the crowd - mostly comprised of college students and teens, but not without those age eight to 58 - on "Faith Like A Child" and "Love Song for a Savior."
Catering to the female audience and providing the night's most eyebrow-raising moment, Jars of Clay tossed in an inexplicable cover of Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun."
The band did not disappoint in playing its breakthrough smash and crowd favorite "Flood" midway through the show. The audience backed the singer enthusiastically on the driving chorus.
Several concertgoers curiously still sought to "raise the roof" with their arm motions as Haseltine repeated the line "Lift me up" during "Flood."
The band sounded tightest on its newer fare: "Something Beautiful," The Eleventh Hour" and "Fly" were all highly successful in sustaining their acoustic electric grooves in the fitting venue.
The main set concluded with "Revolution," Jars' melodic advice anthem to the up-and-coming generation that "You don't have to fight or make yourself belong to be a revolution."
After much clamor and stamping of feet on the gym's wooden bleachers, Haseltine returned to the stage to somberly address the plague of HIV/AIDS in Africa. He beckoned the crowd to support an African child through the World Vision program if led to, but to most of all, become informed about the escalating epidemic, which experts predict will next infiltrate college campuses.
Mason then joined Haseltine on stage and the pair launched into "Worlds Apart," lyrically the band's most vulnerable song. Band members gradually reappeared on stage, building layers of instrumental bulk to the song.
The result was understatedly poignant and powerful. The makeshift choir of concertgoers raised up choruses of "Hallelujah" for five minutes as the music faded. Audience members opened their eyes to find the band had already disappeared in a most sober and anti-climactic denouement to this dynamic rock show.
The remodeled gymnasium converted into a concert hall for what seemed somewhat of a throwback pep rally; that is, if the pep rally was for God.
Contributing heavily to the pep-rally feel of the night was opening act The Elms. Frontman Owen Thomas and company reeled off their melodic, grungy-guitar rock with boundless vigor. Hailing from Seymour, Ind., the band immediately looked and sounded like a hybrid of the Beatles and hip new garage bands like The Strokes and The Vines.
Highlights of The Elms' set were "Speaking in Tongues" - its first single off "TRUTH, SOUL, ROCK&ROLL," dropping October 22 - and "Hey, Hey," the funky MTV single that started the buzz for this little band that could.