Winter Jam 2014 brings Christian pop bands to Raleigh

CorrespondentJanuary 2, 2014 

Australian Christian pop band The Newsboys are among the bands performing at Winter Jam 2014 at PNC Arena in Raleigh.

COURTESY OF THE NEWSBOYS

  • Details

    What: Winter Jam 2014 with The Newsboys; Lecrae; Tenth Avenue North; Thousand Foot Krutch; Plumb; NewSong; Colton Dixon; Love & The Outcome; Everfound; Derek Minor; and speaker Nick Hall

    When: 6 p.m. Friday

    Where: PNC Arena, 1400 Edwards Mill Road, Raleigh

    Cost: $10 suggested donation at the door

    Info: thepncarena.com

The year 2015 will mark the 30th anniversary of The Newsboys, an Australian Christian pop band that started out as The News, but ended up changing its name to avoid conflict with Huey Lewis’ better-known group.

Back in 1985, the struggling Christian group not only had a different name, but they also had a completely different lineup than their far more successful current version.

The current version of The Newsboys are headlining Winter Jam 2014 at Raleigh’s PNC Arena on Friday.

This will be The Newsboys’ fifth Winter Jam tour since 2002. According to Newsboys drummer Duncan Phillips, every show is packed to the walls with devoted fans.

Winter Jam has 10 bands being transported with their gear from state to state, along with a catering crew, which involves close to a dozen buses (Phillips isn’t quite sure how many).

“It’s crazy,” says Phillips, who often acts as the band’s friendly, talkative spokesman. “I think we’re doing nearly 50 dates in the spring. It’s mental.”

When Phillips joined The Newsboys’ ever-changing lineup in 1993, the band had just begun to get some attention with its fourth album “Not Ashamed.” The next one, 1994’s “Going Public” blew up in a big way.

“It was all about me – it was because I joined the band that they had the massive success that they did,” Phillips jokes, with a hearty laugh.

The next couple of records continued to build The Newsboys’ base, and represented what Phillips calls a peak period. Though the band is a traveling ministry, they’re not immune to the modern realities of any traveling pop group, such as fickle audiences.

For Phillips, that means coming to terms with how young fans consume music these days. It’s a lot different than it was for an Australian kid geeking out on new wave albums, and the musicians that made them, back in the 1980s.

“Dude, I just loved ’80s music when I was growing up,” he says. “It was a very exciting time.”

He remembers liking The Buggles, The Cars and Gary Numan. He obsessed about their musical gear and their stylish clothes.

These days, he figures kids care less about that stuff. They like individual songs, not albums. And if they relate to performers, it’s not necessarily on a musical level. It’s more about what they learn on social media.

“We know who (pop stars are) dating, we know who they’re going out with, we know when they’re going to a certain restaurant – whatever,” Phillips says. “Especially in pop music. It’s become more about the lifestyle of that certain person.”

Still, he figures that music culture is cyclical, and hopes that tastes will swing back to serious album listening, in the same way that pop culture evolved from the 1950s through the 1960s.

“Back in the ’50s, it was all single-driven, like with Elvis and all these guys,” he says. “I hope it’ll get back to the place where people really want to dig a little deeper, and get into the record.”

For now, he has no serious complaints. His band’s current lineup, featuring former dc Talk singer Michael Tait, has released two well-received albums, the latest of which is 2011’s “God’s Not Dead.”

The band appears in a new film of the same name, with a cast that includes Kevin Sorbo, Dean Cain, and Willie and Korie Robertson of A&E’s “Duck Dynasty.” Phillips says it will be released theatrically in March 2014.

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