DAVIS - When many people think of Christian music, they picture the Bill Gaither Homecomings with people sitting around a piano singing gospel songs in four-part harmony.
Toby Mac's Winter Wonder Slam Tour, which touched down Sunday at UC Davis's ARC Pavilion, featured screaming guitars, phat beats and freestyle rap battles.
What the two have in common is who they sing about.
The opening act on the three-band bill was alternative rockers House of Heroes. Their brief, loud set convinced me that I am not their target demographic.
I later discovered they had recorded an extended play album (fewer songs than an actual album) of Beatles covers and I would've loved it if they had done, 'It Won't Be Long' or 'Can't Buy Me Love.'
Brandon Heath was next up to bat and connected with the crowd on favorites such as 'I'm Not Who I Was' ,' 'Give Me Your Eyes' as well as the title track from his newest release, 'Leaving Eden.'
Heath's band featured chiming, driving guitars and tight vocals.
After Heath's performance, the stage was literally set for the former member of legendary Christian rap/rock trio DC Talk.
The twin video screens above the stage displayed a clock counting down from two minutes, which the crowd joined in at 10 seconds like the ball was about to drop in New York on New Year's Eve.
What dropped was the beat as Toby Mac and his band Diverse City took the stage -- with some bouncing on trampolines -- and led off with the title track from their 2010 album 'Tonight.'
The Diverse City band consists of guitarist Tim 'T-Rose' Rosenau and trumpet player on 'No Ordinary Love;' bassist Todde 'Toddiefunk' Lawton; drummer Brian 'Da Bomb' Haley; keyboardist Dave 'D-Dub' Wyatt; Byron 'Mr. Talkbox' Chambers, who does the monster voice, keys, electric guitar; and turntables, DJ Maj.
The singers/rappers/beatboxer/dancers include Gabe 'GabeReal' Patillo, Deshon 'Shonlock' Bullock and Nirva 'Nirva Ready' Dorsaint-Ready.
The high energy show jumped into gear with snippets of crowd favorites including the raucous rocker, 'The Slam,' the infectious, 'The J Train,' and the funky, 'Welcome to Diverse City.'
Toby then tapped on the brakes and slowed it down with the breezy rap/ballad 'Lose My Soul' from his 2007 album 'Portable Sounds.' The original featured Kirk Franklin and 'American Idol' contestant Mandisa, but there was no drop off as the Diverse City vocalists handled their respective parts.
The Winter Wonder Slam concert suddenly morphed into an impromptu worship service as Toby led the crowd in singing the chorus of the Christmas classic 'O Come All Ye Faithful.' Hands were raised and eyes were closed as the refrain 'O Come let us adore him' was repeated.
The bouncy 'Made to Love' was followed by a freestyle rap battle between Diverse City band members, which lead in turn to an explosive version of 'Boomin'. '
The stage had a long runway jutting into the middle of the choice seats. Mac, along with guitarist Rosenau and vocalist/beatboxer Patillo, went to the edge of the runway and performed a wonderful acoustic set that included, 'Catachafire (Whoopsi--Daisy)' and 'Gone.'
They then threw what Mac called a 'California curveball' and added a version of last year's best known song from 'American Idol,' 'Pants on the Ground.'
Patillo produced a Bible,(which got a huge ovation) and Mac read I John 1:5-7 and then launched into the DC Talk cover of Charlie Peacock's song about those verses, 'In the Light.'
Two songs from 'Tonight' followed: 'Get Back Up,' with Brandon Heath helping out on the bridge, and 'Funky Jesus Music.' Then, the band retreated backstage.
The encore featured the powerful ballad 'City on Our Knees,' which was punctuated by images of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. The show closed with Mac's signature tune, 'Jesus Freak,' and with the band flinging bottled water on the crowd and then sliding down the doused runway.
When the house lights came up signifying the show was over, the song playing on the public address system was Huey Lewis and the News's, 'The Power of Love.'
While not a Christian tune, it summed up nicely what the songs on the Winter Wonder Slam show were all about.
Reach Fairfield freelance writer Tony Wade at firstname.lastname@example.org.