Picture the largest indoor Christian retreat packed nice and tightly and compliment it with three amazing music acts and you’ll receive MercyMe’s Coming Up To Breathe tour. But before MercyMe would take the stage, Audio Adrenaline and Phil Wickham performed. Phil Wickham kicked things off with “I Adore.” Wickham said that he was just a songwriter who had performed only at worship meetings in churches and it was awesome to sing in front of a larger audience like this before serenading the crowd with “Divine Romance.” He finished his set with “Always Forever” which was a combination of beauty and power getting everybody going before the main attractions of the night. Although Wickham’s set was short, it brought attention to how good he is as a singer/songwriter and introduced himself to Northeast Ohio’s discerning Christian music audience with glee.
In a contrast to the low-key stripped-down nature of Phil Wickam come the wild styles of Audio Adrenaline. They kicked their show off with a great spectacle of blazing light displays and tons of high energy rock and roll. Audio Adrenaline created a great party atmosphere getting everybody in the Wolstein Center to go absolutely insane clapping their hands to the beat, cheering and singing along. They went from soft and sweet with “Ocean Floor” to light-hearted and peppy with “The Goodbye Blues.” Audio Adrenaline gave it their all after more than 15 years and they claimed that this was their last tour and went out with a bang. As they thanked their loyal fans in their own special way both with tears and bittersweet love, Audio Adrenaline performed for one last time in Cleveland and sang “Goodbye.”
Audio Adrenaline passed the torch to the last group of the night MercyMe. MercyMe didn’t drop the fire and burn themselves as they kicked things off with a multitude of melody and splendor. Bart Millard and the boys mixed up a medley of old and new hits such as “Coming Up To Breathe” to “Pours Down Like Rain.” The fans in attendance were off the charts throughout each song as they sang, clapped and chanted during each song. MercyMe had an interesting little graphic on their video monitors of a hand writing down lyrics on a pad helping the people singing along if they couldn’t remember the words joining MercyMe in the harmonious joy. Millard proclaimed how we all have problems in our lives or have deep love for God or not as he led the audience in a rousing rendition of “Amazing Grace.” Millard continued another interesting monologue of what it’s like growing up in a Southern Baptist church seeing an older parishioner and wondering how he feels and amusingly talked about his experiences in the church and sharing this with us and how the Holy Spirit affects us each day before playing “Jesus Bring The Rain.”
MercyMe continued to give so much to their loving fans with each drum break, guitar lick and bass groove stunning our ears and crushing our hearts into pulp. Large glowing lights enhanced the worship experience making it feel like we were in Heaven instead of being in Cleveland at The Wolstein Center. Millard gave much love and proper respects to Audio Adrenaline as they were given their first big break more than 10 years ago and the respect was reciprocated by bringing them on their tour and also covering an Audio Adrenaline rarity, “Tremble.” It was heavily requested by the audience and MercyMe delivered by performing one of their biggest hits with “I Can Only Imagine.” The night concluded as MercyMe splashed the fully-packed arena not just with more music, but a rain of confetti to close things out. The amount of energy and emotion squeezed out of this group would make an angel come down and give a big hug around these guys with their glowing wings.
IF you’ve never experienced a Christian rock show or this genre of music, you’re missing out on something. Some may think it’s just wishy-washy and corny but take an open mind and ear and just listen to the words and let the beat move your body. MercyMe and Audio Adrenaline brought their top game tonight and showed that Jesus freaks could rock hard too.