Normally, I don't drive hundreds of miles to see a concert, especially when there is only one band playing. But, this Disciple show in Rapid City, SD was the impetus behind a family vacation (yes, we also saw Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, the Cosmos, Custer State Park, etc., etc.), as not only do I love this band, but both of my sons are Disciple...err...disciples(?), as well.
As I stated before, there was no opening band for this show, which found the band on a long stretch across the United States, heading west to California before trekking south to Texas. Not having an opening act is a bit of a risk for any band, because of a couple of things. First, you minimize the draw of the show, because sometimes people will come to see the opening acts...maybe they know the band or are already fans of those early bands...and then they stay for the headliner's show, as well. Without an opener, that draw is gone. Secondly, with no opener, the success or failure of the show is placed squarely on that one band, and if things go badly, people can potentially leave with a bad taste in their mouth toward that band. Fortunately, Disciple has established themselves as one of the main forces in the Christian hard rock world (behind only Skillet and perhaps Thousand Foot Krutch and Red, at least to listeners outside the Christian sphere), so the draw was a decent one, especially considering the show was on a Wednesday. At one point I had done a headcount and tallied 89 people in attendance, but I am pretty sure that number exceeded 100 by the time the show started. And, as far as having a bad show? I had attended three previous Disciple shows over the past 5 years, and every single one was solid. This show made it four-for-four, as the band was in top form both in sound and performance.
The band kicked off their show at about 7:15, with long-time members Joey West (drums) and Josiah Prince (guitar) taking the stage first, followed by Andrew Stanton (guitar), and finally the exuberant frontman, Disciple's founder and sole-original member, Kevin Young. I am not sure if there is an off-stage bass player, or if the bass lines are pre-recorded/triggered by the sound man, but I can say with 100% certainty that the vocals were live, as were the guitars and drums. This has become a big issue of late, with so many bands being accused (and accusing each other) of lip-syncing and using pre-recorded tracks. Yes, there were some effects tracks used here, such as the cello introduction to "Dear X", but I never felt that I was being robbed of a live performance, as it is simply not feasible for most bands to travel with multiple non-member performers, and the use of these effects in no way negatively affected the show for me.
Once the show kicked off, the majority of the crowd immediately went to the front of the stage area, with my wife and sons joining me at the very front of the crowd, right in front of Stanton, about ten feet left-of-center stage. It was straight into the music for the band, as they launched into consecutive full-throttle rockers, "Rise Up" from 2005's self-titled album followed by "The Name" from 2014's Attack, the album where the current line-up came together. "Secret Weapon" from the latest album, Long Live The Rebels, followed, with "Invisible" somewhat slowing things for a moment, before "First Love", also from LLtR concluded the "first movement", if you will, of the show. By this time, the crowd was definitely fully into the show, as was the band, who put on their
At this point, Kevin took a couple of minutes to catch his breath and to talk to the crowd about the band's soon-to-be-released new album, Love Letter Kill Shot, which will be the fourth collaboration from the current version of the band, which is sometimes referred to as to as Disciple 3.0. To give the fans a taste of what they can expect, the band launched into two new tracks, "Cuff The Criminal" and "Reanimate". "Cuff The Criminal" features some electronic elements, but still rocks very hard, while "Reanimate" definitely falls more on the metallic end of the Disciple music spectrum. I would imagine both will find significant success on Christian rock radio, but I find it too bad that the stations such as Sirius/XM Octane will likely ignore these tracks (and continue to ignore this band), as they are likely considered to be too Christian for their listener base. Check out the videos below for BOTH new songs in the live setting (not from the show I attended), as well as the promo video for "Cuff The Criminal"....
By the way, the first lines of the verses are performed by Prince on lead vocals before Young comes in on the second half. In concert, this song is a big audience participation number, with Young inciting everyone to jump around during the chorus section, followed by a group sing along on the big "whoa-oh-oh" section, which was a big hit with those in attendance. My family had a lot of fun bouncing around and chanting along, and it was especially entertaining to see my seven year-old's shoes light up with every jump!
From there, the band returned to more familiar waters, with two of the band's biggest hits, "God Is With Us" and "Erase", both from Long Live The Rebels, leading the show into it's midpoint and Young's traditional sermon.
For those who have never attended a Disciple show, Young regularly spends about 15 minutes speaking to the crowd, usually mixing in stories from his youth to help illustrate his point, which is based in Scripture. On this particular occasion, Young spoke about society's need to win at all costs and our need to seek approval and reward for everything we do in life. He talked about his band's successes and failures, all culminating in receiving a Dove Award (think Christian Grammy) that now sits on a shelf in Young's home, essentially meaningless and more or less forgotten. Young became very emotional at one point as he talked about his youth, about not fitting in as a child and teen, and about eventually being befriended by the most popular student in school because that student had the courage to care about someone outside of his circle (they remain best friends today, according to Young). The crowd was obviously moved by Young's willingness to bare his own emotional scars, which led the rest of the band back on stage to kick off the band's biggest track, the 2010 Christian Rock Number One song, "Dear X", which is also my oldest son's favorite song. It was awesome tosee him get into the song so much, and the picture I managed to take during the track was, in my opinion, the best shot of the entire show, as it showcases a smiling Young next to the song's title as West hammers away at his kit.
"Game On" followed, with a three song medley of early Disciple scorchers being melded into what the band refers to as their "heavy medley". Portions of videos to the songs are spliced together to show the band in their younger stages, particularly focusing on Young and his change in appearance and style over the years. For those of us who have been following the band for more than a decade, this was a pretty cool treat, but I have a feeling much of the crowd had no idea where these songs came from. The band continued in a heavier vein with the post-hardcore infused track, "Scars Remain", closing out the "regular" show.
After several chants of "one more song", the band returned to the stage, starting off with "After The World", a largely acoustic track that gave Young a chance to showcase that he is so much more than just a screamer. The energy was cranked back up to ten for the final two songs of the evening, both from Attack, as Young broke out the band's signature flag for "Dead Militia", and then closed the evening with another massive fan scream-along track, "Radical". All in all, the show ran for roughly an hour and fifty minutes, which is impressive for any band performing without a support act.
The band cooled down for a few minutes, before Young, Prince, and West returned to the church sanctuary and took their places behind a table and talked with fans while taking photos and signing autographs. I'm not sure why Stanton didn't come out, but Prince stated that he was not feeling very well, himself, so perhaps Stanton was under the weather, as well. All three men took note of the Kansas City Royals shirt and hat I was wearing (and pretty much ALWAYS wear), stating that they knew that KC had just swept their beloved Atlanta Braves team, and we chatted baseball briefly as they signed my sons' CDs and took a group picture with my 11 year old, which was likely the highlight of the entire vacation for him!
I was impressed with the show from start to finish, and even more so after talking to Prince, who was obviously struggling a bit with his voice. This was the band's fifth show in six days, but you would never know it, as the energy level was high throughout the evening. I was especially grateful for the band taking the time to chat with their fans, as they still had to load up and head off to another show the following night, but they never rushed anyone they were talking with. I also want to say thanks to Destiny Foursquare Church and whomever helped to finance the concert, as amazingly, this was a FREE show to all attendees. Truly a blessing for those who may not have been financially able to attend otherwise.
As to the venue, Destiny Foursquare Church has a very large sanctuary area and an excellent stage set-up which should appeal to other bands who may be travelling through the area. The acoustics were very good, with no echo issues, which has been the case with shows I have attended in churches and smaller venues in the past. The band was able to set up a merchandise area near the entrance to the church, which was easy to navigate, and the volunteers were all very pleasant to work with. The merchandise selection was a bit thin, especially in the t-shirt department, but hopefully that is because Disciple is selling out of everything on a regular basis! Both boys still managed to find shirts they didn't already have, and anyone who purchased a t-shirt also received a free copy of Long Live The Rebels on CD, likely so that inventory is cleared out in preparation for the arrival of Love Letter Kill Shot
This was a great experience in an intimate environment that allowed for a lot of interaction between the band and concert goers. This was my youngest's first time seeing Disciple, and the third time for my oldest, and both are ready to see the band again any time they roll even remotely through our area!
Keep up with Disciple's tour schedule HERE.