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Casting Crowns triumphant in return to Kingdom Bound

There may have been a bit of a chill in their air Friday night at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center, but on the stage the temperature was red hot as multiplatinum Christian rock group Casting Crowns played to a packed house on day three of Kingdom Bound, the annual Christian music festival.

Led by founding member and lead vocalist Mark Hall, a Southern pastor-turned recording artist, Casting Crowns hit the music scene in 1999 and  has been traveling the country ever since, spreading its gospel message and selling more than five million albums along the way.

Stepping out on stage and following Thursday night’s headliners, the Newsboys may have been a daunting task for some groups, but seven youth pastors from Georgia made it look easy, 

With a decidedly low-key stage presence, Casting Crowns forgoes the flashy light shows, pyrotechnic, and glitzy costumes that have crossed over and become commonplace in Christian music, instead delivering what Hall described as, “songs that all began as bible studies,” for the youth they serve. It’s a formula that had the crowd on their feet for much of the night, swaying, hands in the air and singing along.

Whether it was on the Grammy-nominated “East to West,” or the Top 10 single, “Already There,” from the band’s 2011 album, “Come to the Well,” Casting Crowns delivered a message of faith, hope and redemption that seemed to resonate from the front row to the farthest recesses of the lawn.

But as strong as the music was (and make no mistake about it, it was easy to see why the band has sold millions of albums and garnered worldwide acclaim), it was the powerful words of Mark Hall the pastor that may have left the most indelible memories on those in attendance. 

When, for example,  he paused between songs, his voice dropping a bit, Hall shared the story of his recent battle with kidney cancer. You could have heard a pin drop as he talked of his faith in God and the strength of prayer that sustained him before announcing he was cancer-free. 

But it was what happened next that was a sobering moment. Hall asked all those in the crowd that had faced down cancer to stand, and as bodies began to rise across the Performing Arts Center, the sheer number of survivors was as inspirational as any song sung or message delivered all day.

Longtime fans of Casting Crowns were treated to a smorgasbord of music spanning the last 15 years. 

Vocalist and keyboard player Megan Garrett took to the mic and  delivered a stirring rendition of the band’s 2003 song, “Who Am I.” Hall took the reigns and navigated along several of the bands studio albums, drawing multiple songs from the 2014 album, “Thrive,” including the crowd favorite, “Just Be Held.”

But it may have bee, “Glorious Da,” that was the jewel of the crown on this night. From the aptly titled album, “Until the Whole World Hears,” Hall had several thousand backup vocalists join him, singing along as one and capturing the spirit that makes Kingdom Bound such a huge draw year after year.

While the evening felt, at times, more like a Sunday worship service in a contemporary church, that seemed to be exactly the point. Substance over style, faith over flare, the band brought a message to the stage, and didn’t leave until every last person heard it loud and clear.

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