The Brilliance, led by David Gungor
Needtobreathe: “The Reckoning” tour at the Riviera Theatre in Uptown
The Darren Zancan Band @ Hard Rock Cafe Chicago
Willow Creek: Chicago, Palm Sunday service
This weekend, I was fortunate enough to catch four concerts around the greater Chicago area (Michael Gungor and The Brilliance at Wheaton College, The Darren Zancan Band at the Hard Rock Café Chicago, Ben Rector and Needtobreathe at the Riviera Theatre in Uptown, Willow Creek: Chicago’s worship team at the Auditorium Theatre). All of them were exceptional in their own way, and every one of them showcased elements of Christian faith. It was incredible to see God at work in four different venues across the Chi, especially to lead into Holy Week (the week leading up to Easter this coming Sunday).
Michael Gungor opened up the weekend with a show at Wheaton College’s Edman Chapel, and, at a pre-show Q&A session, addressed the “façade” that surrounds most performing artists in the industry today. One of his main points was to point out that, from his observations as a lead performer over the years in the performing arts industry, he’s found that the allure surrounding most popular artists is not so much about the artist themselves as it is the message they are projecting. He spoke a bit about how easy it is, as a fan and/or musician, to become absorbed in a transient image or idea as opposed to letting truth of God’s loving presence encompass you, and insisted Gungor’s goal is not so much to entertain as it is to heal and present the word of God in a powerfully intimate and artistic form (according to their website, Gungor’s tour is loosely based on C.S. Lewis’ allegory “The Great Divorce”).
The Brilliance, David Gungor’s project, opened up the show with a bang. After being warned that they were about to “soft rock our faces off,” The Brilliance delivered a punch-packed 45-minute set that showcased a variety of progressive alternative containing varying degrees of strings, synth, drum beats and both electric and acoustic guitars that I would be pleased to hear in an elevator or dentist’s office. Gungor’s clear voice (that sounds eerily similar to Coldplay frontman Chris Martin’s), was complemented by this dramatic instrumentation, and the opening track “Breathe,” from the group’s 2010 self-titled album, in addition to “Does Your Heart Break,” off of this year’s album, “Lent,” best encompassed the group’s diverse instrumentation and dynamic qualities.
After brother David’s introduction, Michael Gungor took the stage and proved the Gungor family means business. Showcasing a four-part performance of their most recent Grammy-nominated album, “Ghosts Upon the Earth,” Gungor welcomed spoken word poet Amena Brown to grace the stage with her liturgical words and Scripture readings between four sets of music taken from tracks on their album: “Creation,” “The Fall,” “The Bride,” and “Re-Creation.” It was an incredible artistic presentation of the gospel message, and not one I’ll soon forget – the album hardly does the live performance justice, and that’s saying something for musicians these days.