Bart Millard, lead singer of the Christian Rock group MercyMe, tells the Tuesday night audience at The Big Fresno Fair that he’s not feeling well because of a bout with the flu. If Millard and the band are this good when there are health issues, they have to be heavenly when everyone is at their best.
In what can best be described as an inspirational performance, the Texas band deliver their Gospel message through songs with hard-driving beats and those with softer melodies. Mixed in with the performances is Millard’s testimony about his family, his faith and his future.
“I’d like to thank the fair for having an event like this. Whether it’s a fair or a church, we have had a chance to worship tonight,” Millard says.
MercyMe kicks off the show with a rock hard version of “Gotta Let It Go” from their 2014 album “Welcome to the New.” They continue to show why they have picked up eight Dove Awards with “New Lease on Life” from that same 2014 album.
A big part of the show is interaction with the audience. During their lively performance of “Shake,” the massive video screen above the band flashes a video that shows the band members doing what can only cautiously be called dancing. But, it’s the coaching of the audience to lift their right hand or scream that gets the concert into high gear.
Throughout the show, Millard shares his views on what it means to have God in his life. No song in the band’s playlist better describes his love and happiness more than “Move.” The song is intended to stress that with a strong faith, a person might bend but they won’t break.
As with the majority of their music, the initial intention is to play to fans of contemporary Christian music. But, the positive messages have a universal appeal and coupled with the band’s complete grasp on rock music should make MercyMe more popular outside the faith-based circles.
No song better exemplifies the broad message of the band than the very revealing “Dear Younger Me.”
Millard explains he had always wondered what he would say if he had the chance to speak to an 8-year-old version of himself. He calls writing the song a form of therapy but its message about forgiving yourself is fit for the masses.
MercyMe has been performing for 22 years and produced 12 albums. They have had 13 consecutive top five singles on Billboard’s Christian Songs chart. The downside to that is a catalog of music too extensive to perform in one show.
The band tries to juggle the lineup each night but always seems to leave out someone’s favorite tune. They try to appease as many fans as possible with a medley that ranges from their own work (“Word of God Speak”) to standards like “Because He Lives.”
Just before turning the show over to the audience to sing “Amazing Grace,” Millard warns the packed house that if they don’t know the words to the song they “need to go to church more.”
The evening is a mix of performance by the band - that also includes Robby Shaffer, Nathan Cochran, Michael Scheuchzer and Barry Graul – and a capella tunes from Millard that even includes a short cover of the Katrina and the Waves tune, “Walking on Sunshine.”
MercyMe wraps up the show on a traditional note with “His Eye is on the Sparrow” that includes the line “I sing because I’m happy.” That’s a great way to describe MercyMe.
Read more Big Fresno Fair concert reviews here.