Thousands of faithful descended on Darien Lake July 30 for the first full day of Kingdom Bound, the annual Christian music and arts festival. The day was filled with music and worship led by local and national speakers and performers.
Taking center stage at the Performing Arts Center was former “American Idol” finalist Danny Gokey. Remembered as much for his tragic backstory as his music, Gokey left no doubt that he is for real, and not just some reality show castaway.
Preceding Gokey to the stage was We Are Messengers, an Irish Christian band that came on the scene in 2016 and has already found success with three top five songs, none better than “Everything Comes Alive,” a spiritually moving track that’s a crowd favorite.
But it was headliner, for King and Country, led by Australian-born brothers Joel and Luke Smallbone, that stole the show, delivering a 75-minute set blending the best from the band’s three studio albums wrapped in a beautifully produced stage show.
The band delivered a dazzling stage show that was tiring just to watch, as the brothers raced across the stage, jumping from instrument to instrument, sharing vocal duties, and engaging with their passionate fan base, including leaving the comfort of the main stage and venturing into the crowd to perform, “It’s Not Over Yet,” one of their eight, Top 10 singles.
Fans were treated to storytelling as rich as the music, as both Joel and Luke shared personal, touching stories from which they draw their inspiration. Luke, in particular, held the crowd as he recounted a harrowing experience with the illness of his youngest son. His vulnerability and raw honesty on stage served as a powerful contrast to the wild rocker darting from drums to tambourine, from morocco to microphone, fueled by a seemingly boundless energy.
The brothers drew from their entire catalog, highlighted by their opening number, “Run Wild,” from the band’s debut album, “Crave,” and carrying through to the debut of their latest single, “God Only Knows,” from their album, “Burn the Ships,” which is scheduled to drop Oct. 5.
Be it the luck of good timing, or, considering the event, some divine intervention, the night sky over Darien filled with fireworks from the theme park’s nightly show, as the band launched into “God Only Knows.” It was the perfect backdrop for the Kingdom Bound crowd to take in the band’s latest offering.
While plenty of the acts featured at Kingdom Bound 2018 could be easily described as unmistakably Christian music, for King and Country transcends a single label. With the ability to seamlessly blend an incredible array of musical talent with powerful songwriting and a charming stage presence, band delivered an evening of music that would be unjust to pigeonhole as Christian rock.
That being said, the band members wear their faith as a badge of honor and it is interwoven into every element of its performance, including a unique encore. The band, known for its use of drums of all shapes and sizes in virtually every song, offered a rendition of the oft-covered classic, “The Little Drummer Boy.” To say this wasn’t your grandparent’s version of the 1950’s Christmas favorite would be a gross understatement. The Smallbone brothers transformed the song into a rock spectacular, leaving it all on the stage as they closed out the best performance of Kingdom Bound in recent memory.