On November 21st Krystal and I (Cecily) had the privilege of being able to experience Skillet’s Awake and Alive Tour featuring Hawk Nelson, Decyfer Down, and The Letter Black, when the tour made it’s stop at The Berry Center in Cypress, Texas.
The night started off with Tooth and Nail newcomers, The Letter Black. The female-fronted band, which reminded us a lot of Flyleaf, was the perfect way to get the night started. The band opened with the rocker “Hanging On By A Thread”. Lead singer, Sarah Anthony, has a very strong, beautiful voice. There’s not many female vocalists that can rival the boys with the “screams” but Sarah holds her own. The band had a short 15 min. set, some of the highlights included their current single “Best Of Me”, and our personal favorite, “Moving On”, which closed out their set. “Moving On”, a song Sarah said was about forgiving and moving on after you’ve been hurt, was a powerful rock song that brought out all band’s energy. The prominent rhythm of the bass and drums in the bridge got everyone going as we all had our hands up in the air. Sarah rocking out, head banging and dancing all over the stage. This was my (Cecily) favorite song the band played that night, with the lyrics being so honest and the music so hard, it was a song that made you feel very empowered. The last words of the song brought a powerful close to not only the song but to their set as well. “I forgive you but I’m moving on”. Meaningful lyrics with a hard rock edge is what The Letter Black is all about.
After a short 15 minute set change, Decyfer Down came on stage with a punch. Pounding drums and raging guitars were the first signal that we were about to be rocked to the ground. The band opened with the song “Crash” off their EP of the same name. Fan favorite “Fight Like This” soon followed, and had the entire place with fists poised in the air! This is my (Cecily) favorite Decyfer Down song, and the one I know all the words to. Hearing it live and being able to sing the words, “You’ve never seen a fight like this before” at the top of my lungs meant a lot to me…oh yes I was rockin out baby! The end of the song was electric with new lead singer TJ Harris’ (Fun side note: TJ sort of in a way reminds me of my piercer…who I think is a satanist, but that’s not confirimed) “Kissesque” rocker screams.
“Burn Back The Sun” was a softer rock ballad where the bands musicianship and vocals really shined. It showed that Decyfer Down can not only write rock songs, but also beautiful and meaningful ballads. This song was so intimate and seemed to almost “shrink” the huge arena, making you feel like you were in a small gritty venue with your closest friends. Before the band played “Best I Can” TJ took a moment to explain the song, saying
“This next song talks about how so many times in life we feel like we’ve got to be perfect, we got to be perfect for school, we’ve got to be perfect for church, we’ve got to be perfect for God, and that’s just not the case. Because wherever you are, right there in your seat, God loves you and wants to be a part of your life. And if you’re already a believer, and you’re kicking yourself for something you did wrong, and you feel like God doesn’t love you as much anymore, that’s still not the case, He loves each and everyone of us just the same. And the same mercy and grace He has for me, He has for you as well. That’s what this song talks about, it’s called “Best I Can”.
Other songs that night include “Desperate”, “Fading” and “Ride With Me”. Decyfer Down is a hard rock band with a soft heart for God, they play a powerful and passionate set that is not to be missed.
Next up was the band Krys and I were there to see, my (Cecily) favorite band, Hawk Nelson! Red lights flashed as the opening cheer squad chant of “Live Life Loud” played, “Someone throw your hands up. If you want to take a chance then, you’ve got to sing a little louder, let’s wake this crowd up”, as the guys got into place on the stage. When all the members were set, Jason shouted “BRING EM OUT, BRING EM OUT!”. The place erupted and the guys proceeded to play the party anthem “Bring Em Out”. That, in my not so humble opinion, is one of the best live songs ever. The energy of the bridge, that has everyone’s hands in the air clapping as Justin thrashes his symbol, is unexplainable! Daniel’s energy never ceases to amaze me, he’s like this bundle of boundless spirit, always moving, jumping and dancing about the stage with his bass in hand, never missing a note in the process.
The next song was “The Show”, which always showcases Jonathan’s beautiful background vocals. Seriously friends, Jonathan’s voice is like a smooth, creamy, and buttery frosting! The guys then reached way into the vault and pulled out such favorites as “Letters To The President” and “California”, which not only pleased the cats out of me (Cecily), but the entire crowd as well, and had everyone in the place singing along. The bridges in both songs always get the most crowd participation, from the “ooooh’s” on California, to the line “Now instead Tommy is a crack head” in Letters To The President, the crowd can always be heard loud and clear…sometimes even over powering the vocals of the band! haha.
In the middle of the set Jason took a moment to talk about an organization that the band has partnered with, called Mocha Club, here’s what he had to say about it from the stage;
“What they do is they give a kid in Africa, or multiple kids in Africa, a chance to live to see their 20th, 30th, 40th 50th, 60th, birthday. And right now some of those kids don’t have that opportunity, and that hurts me. That makes me upset because we here who grow up in America, we have so much to offer and yet we just sit back and wait for someone else to take the leadership role, and i don’t want to do that anymore. So that’s why i have this microphone here, and i want to use it to the best of my ability. And i want to let you guys know that for $7.00 dollars a month you can give one child in Africa medicine, it gives them the chance to see their 10th birthday, which right now they don’t get that opportunity.
And on top of that, the additional two bucks gives them an education where they can learn their alphabet and they can learn their numbers. And then they can grow up to be doctors, and they can grow up to be lawyers, and they can have a life where they can provide for their families too like we in north America have. Now when i say that i’m a Christian, i actually want to mean what i say. And when i think of what a Christian is, in my opinion a Christian is someone who’s just trying to be like Jesus. And i don’t want to just say that, i don’t want to just say “oh i’m just trying to be like Jesus man”, anyone can say that, I actually want to do that. And i want to make a difference in this world right here, right now, right here in Cypress Texas. Because i don’t care about record sales anymore, who cares, we’ll just give away the cd.”
After talking about Mocha Club, Jason said “This next song is about forgiveness” and then the band began playing “Everything You Ever Wanted”. It slowed the night down a bit, and of course made me (Cecily) cry (if you guys haven’t noticed from my other blogs, I’m kind of a tad bit emotional when it comes to music…but just a bit!). “I want you, I need you, I want to believe you” is the line in the bridge that always gets me, and I sung out those lyrics with my whole heart. The guys sounded beautiful on this song, Jason’s voice has really matured and become so much stronger and prominent. Really, overall, the guys have to matured so much, musically and personality wise. Don’t get me wrong, they are still those crazy, nutty, goof balls that we all love, but they seem to have a new sense of comfort and skill, and humbleness…I love it guys!
Current radio single “Meaning Of Life” soon followed, which featured a moving guitar solo compliments of Mr. Jonathan Steingard. This song is my favorite off the Live Life Loud album, and i was super freaking jazzed to see it played live! It’s filled such emotion and determination. Everyone was waving their hands in the air as Jason sang “Today’s the day don’t hesitate. Everybody with me sing, na na , na na , naaa…”, it felt as if we were all singing together for change…I know I was. Before the guys played the punk anthem “The Job”, Jason told the story of the song. He used to work at a tollbooth at a hospital in Canada for 3 years and he hated it. Then before going into the song, Jason said “this song is for anyone who has a job and thinks it’s lame”. Ha! Oh how I loved this song! Now, I know that it has to do with jobs, but I related to something very different that day. And I sang the lyrics out with all my voice, and threw my fist high in the air and declared “I don’t want the job!”. Oh yes, it was quite the defining moment for me. During random parts of the song Jason would shout out the names of various fast food industries such as McDonald’s and Whataburger haha, oh Jas! And let’s not forget to mention Jason’s scream in the bridge of the song! Oh frick yeah! He rocked that scream baby! It was gritty, it was raw, and it was filled with all the punk sass you could handle…just how i like it!
Up next was the energetic song “Friend Like That”, followed by the always intense “The One Thing I Have Left”, which had every fist in the air. My favorite part of this song live is right before the instrumental break leading into the bridge when Jason always shouts “Are you ready!”. The crowd erupts in screams and thrusts their fists in the air as the Hawk guys lead us into shouting “How can i be the one? How can i hold the gun? How can i see if everyone else is to blame?”. “Let’s Dance” kept the determined spirit going, with Jason jumping down from the stage and going deep into the crowd, who then proceeded to gather around him in a circle and, on Jason’s cue, began to jump.This was one of my favorite moments, and is such a sight to see! This song always leaves me breathless because I’m dancing so much, and i think the entire crowd was with me that day! haha.
The band choose to close out their high energy set with the title track off their newest release “Live Life Loud”.I don’t think there could be a better way to end a set then to sing the words “I’m not sitting down till I’m older, I’m not shutting up till it’s over”. As the song was ending Jason spoke to the crowd and said “Just keep living. We’ve got to just keep living, Texas” and then the guys stopped playing their intstruments as they led the crowd into repeating and finishing the last “whoa,whoa,oh’s” in the song, and with fists in the air, the crowd sang with fierce determination, screaming every last note like it would be our very last.
We’ve had the privilege to see Hawk Nelson live 5 times now, and i can honestly say that they put every bit of their heart into their shows. You must go see Hawk Nelson live! You will leave feeling encouraged, with a determined attitude to live life with everything you’ve got. And you will also leave feeling as happy and giddy as a schoolcat who just got a date to the kitty prom with the coolest cat in town!
As soon as the set started to change and the banner that read Skillet, in big, bold letters was hung above the stage the crowd went wild! You knew something special was about to happen here. Oh yes, it was time for Skillet! I must say you Skillet fans, or “Panheads” as you are called, you guys are dedicated and you are crazy lol. Yes, the Panheads were in fine form that night, readily prepared with their Skillet signs in hand. This was our first Skillet show so we didn’t know quite what to expect, but had been hearing all night that their set would quote “rock our faces off”…. and rock it did.
The lights went out and the count down began. The music started to play as a spotlight showed two of the band members on rising platforms taking them up and down. Skillet came onstage with a bang …literally, fire shot in the air as they went into their first song “Whispers In The Dark”. Yes, Skillet puts on an explosive show in every sense of the word. There are explosions and fireworks going off at every turn. The funny thing we noticed was that every time fire would shoot from the stage, even as far back as we were sitting, we could feel heat on our faces. I can’t imagine what that felt like in the first row… or for the band onstage for that matter lol.
The rocker “Comatose” started with a beautiful Cello and Violin intro. Who knew that Skillet toured with a Cellist and a Violinist? It made the beginning of the song very intense as the pounding of the drums started. Everyone was singing along and pounding their fists in the air during this one. Their current single “Hero”, the song we were really freaking jazzed to hear, soon followed. This song was really electric and was filled with so much energy. The crowd went crazy, singing every word. The band played this song with so much power and determination, I (Cecily) was blown away by the fierce urgency in the bridge…it was breath taking. New drummer, Jen Ledger, shares the vocals with John on this song, and she sounded even better live.
Next, John brought out his acoustic guitar and said they were going to slow things down a little. He asked how many people remembered 80’s power ballads. He talked about how most girls love power ballads but most guys hate them, so they asked the guys to bare with them as they did a throw back to that era and played one for us, then they went into “Yours To Hold”. John with his acoustic guitar plus the cello and violin made this song even prettier. Both Jen and Korey got a chance to sing solos on this one, which sounded really good and added so much to this ballad.
The powerful song “The Last Night” shortly followed. Before they sang the song, John shared with us what the song is about – “This song is about a girl who wanted to give up on life. She had been told she was a loser since she was a kid by her folks, and that she’s never going to amount to anything. Everything that happens wrong in her life is her fault she’s told. She hates herself, hates her life, hates the way she looks, wants to be someone else, then finally decides that’s never going to happen and her life is not worth living anymore. She comes to me in this song and basically says “Look I just want to say goodbye, I do not have one reason left worth waking up for tomorrow morning”. And in this song I have a chance to tell her how special she really is. I get a chance to tell her her life is not a mistake. Best of all, I get a chance to tell her there’s a God who loves her tonight. And if she gives him one chance this will be the very last night she’ll ever spend alone.”
Powerful words for a very meaningful song. There’s no way you couldn’t feel the emotion in this one. In the bridge when the whole crowd sang the song out really loud it was enough to give you chills. If you or anyone you know has struggled with depression, this song will touch your heart and give you hope. Jen came out onstage next and treated us all to a fabulous drum solo that took our breathe away! The crowd was cheering and clapping along to the beat. Jen showed the crowd that we girls can also rock out on the drums! She’s hardcore yo!
Before going into the song “Awake And Alive”, John said some very important things we were lucky enough to get on tape. This is what he said –
“There’s been only one thing in my life that has never let me down, that has never turned his back on me. No matter what life throws at you, no matter what you’re going through out there, the only thing that has never let me down has been Jesus. And tonight I want to encourage all you Jesus freaks out here because every single day you wake up there’s a war going on, and I don’t mean in Afghanistan, or in Iraq or anywhere else, I mean a war going on for your soul. And this world is trying to tell you every single day what you’re supposed to look like, what you’re supposed to dress like, how you’re supposed to act, what’s cool to believe, what’s not cool to believe. And the minute that I start believing in Jesus because it’s cool is the minute I’m looking for a new God. I don’t care about being cool, I want to know that there’s a God who loves me no matter what happens. The time when Jesus becomes a fad to us Christians is the time to get out. Jesus is not a fad, and he is not your homeboy. Jesus is everything. He is the God of the universe, He’s the one who saved you. Don’t make me start preaching.
The reason I say I want to encourage you guys is because people try to tell you what’s cool, and that’s it’s not cool to believe in Jesus, and that you can’t do that or whatever else. But you know what? This is your life, don’t live it for somebody else. If you’ve found what we’ve found to live for, you know it’s worth waking up for, you know it’s worth everything in your life. So this song is going to be dedicated to all you Jesus freaks out here.”
Those words made “Awake And Alive” feel even more powerful and intense. Which is a perfect way to describe their show in general, powerful and intense. The song “Savior” was a highlight for us. We’ve known and loved that song for so long it was fun to be able to sing all the lyrics and really get into it.
Soon after, guitarist extraordinaire, Ben Kasica, came onstage to rock are faces off with his killer guitar skills. Seriously folks, this guy can play! Everyone was loving it, cheering and screaming. I (Krystal) have always loved watching people play guitar so I was mesmerized by it.
After a couple more songs, the cello player came out onstage and graced us with some very pretty music. Right after he left the stage, the violinist took the spotlight. Everyone seemed to really love it. Especially when he played part of “Deep In The Heart Of Texas”. Which had everyone clapping along, because we Texans just can’t resist this quirky ode to our state lol. It was a real crowd pleaser.
Then all the lights went down and the first notes of “Rebirthing” came on. Of course everyone went completely nuts, as this is a favorite of many. All of the sudden we hear John say “Houston, get your cameras out”….we then saw why, all the lights went up as swirling fireworks lit up the stage. It looked really awesome! This song was the perfect way to close the show. It was so full of energy and intensity. The sounds of the cello and violin made the song come even more alive.
Keyboardist/vocalist, Korey Cooper, really rocked on this song! Her vocals sounded so good. As someone who has always secretly wanted to play the keyboard in a band, I (Krystal) can’t help but look up to Korey. She’s such a multi tasker. Throughout the show you see her playing the keyboard, the guitar, as well as doing vocals on certain songs. The way Korey plays is very intense and raw, such a rock chick! Plus, she’s a wife (She’s married to lead singer, John Cooper) and a mother. I’m sure it isn’t easy, but as a woman I find that very inspiring. They really went all out for this finale, with more crazy fireworks and explosions. A dramatic outro with one last explosion brought the song and the concert to an unforgettable close. The crowd cheered so loud as the lights went down and the band exited the stage.
Friends, there are some bands that make you clap your hands, there are some that make you dance, and there are some that make you throw your fist in the air. Then there are those special and rare bands that make you do all of the above, while also throwing your hair around at the same time…that band my dears, is Skillet.
The Awake And Alive tour was one that was not to be missed, it made for a special and beautiful night, one that we really needed and will not forget. These bands know how to put on a killer show while always keeping their focus on what’s really worth playing for, Jesus. If you ever have a chance to see any of these bands live be prepared to have your face rocked off.