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Concert Preview: John Mark McMillan

February 8, 2016

written by Brian Shesko

Student Activities is proud to present John Mark McMillan with Kings Kaleidoscope and Citizens & Saints in concert. Join us in the Vines Center on Saturday, February 13 starting at 8 p.m. for an incredible night of music. Tickets are on sale now: student tickets are just $10 in advance, public tickets are $15 in advance, and floor seats are $18, with all prices going up at the door. All ticketing and other information can be found here.

John Mark McMillan has been a frequent guest of ours in the past five years, going from opening act with David Crowder in 2011, to the LaHaye Event Space in 2014, and now a headlining concert in the Vines Center on Saturday. He remains true to his original sound, a Bruce Springsteen by way of Ryan Adams, rootsy, American rock and roll, yet continues to show his progress and maturity as an artist on his latest album Borderlands. Commenting* on the album’s concept, John Mark said that it basically has to do with living in two places, existing as he says in the title track between “holding on to love” and “the law of the jungle.” It is a nod to the theological concept of already/not yet, with the album’s emphasis leaning towards the “already” side. Tracks such as Love at the End, Monster’s Talk, and Visceral address the hard truths of the here-and-now: that “life is hard, brutal”**, relationships are messy, and that we need help to make it through. However, John Mark wants to keep the “not yet” of our existence in permanent and prominent perspective. We may or may not owe a debt to “the repo man”, but the same cannot be said for our debt to “the reaper” (Love at the End). As he says in the track Monster’s Talk, “we are fragile creatures on collision with our judgment day.” But musically and conceptually, Borderlands is anchored by the beautiful track Future/Past, which is ultimately an elaboration of Philippians 1:6. John Mark McMillan confidently expresses the truth that our hope and our help, before us, now and forever, is in Christ’s hands, while still honestly addressing the role and consequences of our weakness.

We are particularly excited to see how Kings Kaleidoscope translates from studio album to live concert. This is a rare group, and not just for groups that are considered Christian. Their record label bio draws a comparison, at least in energy, between them and The Mars Volta. Anyone familiar with The Mars Volta knows what high praise that is, and likely raises a skeptical eyebrow. But one listen through their EP’s, particularly songs like Confession and What Have We Done on the Sin EP, and you can hear the expert musicianship and experimentation that characterizes the best names in alternative rock, maybe even more comparable to the best names in art and progressive rock. You can easily hear fellow Seattleites Minus the Bear all through their sound (Felix Culpa, Joy Has Dawned, and Seek Your Kingdom, to name a few), and tracks such as I Know on their latest album Becoming Who We Are call Bloc Party to mind. Lead singer Chad Garner is exceptional, part Bear Rinehart from Needtobreathe, part Corey Glover from Living Colour, with drama and power that at times even gets into Jeff Buckley territory. Their songs are skillfully and carefully crafted, but capable of grandeur and beauty (listen to Defender), equally true of their re-creations of established worship songs and their original music. Though they certainly can be called a “worship band”, it would be better to say of Kings Kaleidoscope that they are rare and gifted artists in a band that happens to make worship songs. We cannot recommend them highly enough.

Rounding out the night will be Citizens & Saints, bringing even more of Seattle’s influence to our neck of the woods. It is probably no coincidence, then, that you can say many of the same things about Citizens & Saints that you can say about Kings Kaleidoscope, though perhaps not to the same instrumental degree. Theirs is a more electronic and synth-infused sound, upbeat and full of energy, much more along the lines of Passion Pit, MGMT, and Foster the People.

It is going to be yet another amazing night of music, so don’t miss it. Be sure to get your tickets while they’re still available, and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and our other social media outlets to keep up with everything else we have coming up.

*Commentary track for Holy Ghost on The Borderland Sessions

**Commentary track for Monster’s Talk on The Borderland Sessions