Story and Photos by Andrew Mather
MercyMe performed at the Missouri State Fair Thursday evening. The group formed in 1994 and has released nine studio albums. This Christian band is comprised of lead vocalist Bart Millard, guitarists Barry Graul and Mike Scheuchzer, bassist Nathan Cochran, and percussionist Robbie Shaffer.
The crowd was fairly small for this show. The audience consisted of children, teens, young adults, and elderly guests. Before MercyMe took the stage various contemporary Christian songs were played over the Pepsi Grandstand’s speakers. Several of those that had shown up early were dancing and singing along to the songs being played.
At around 7:30 p.m., the band took the stage. Each member of the band was dressed identically, all the way down to their shoes. They each wore black suit jackets, white-collared dress shirts with a black tie, black slacks, and white and black shoes.
The atmosphere of this concert was much different than most concerts I’ve attended. Millard explained to the audience that this concert wasn’t about you or me, it’s about God. Millard also joked and stated even though it was against the band’s management’s ideas, they decided to sell all their albums for a mere $5 if purchased at the concert. Millard added “that way you can buy a funnel cake if you want,” and the crowd erupted in laughter. It was also stated that during this tour, it is the first time the band is performing the entirety of their latest studio album, “Welcome to the New,” which was released on April 8, 2014, at each performance.
MercyMe’s stage presence was a lot better than I had anticipated. They were energetic in performing even though they didn’t move about the stage too much. Their stage setup was fairly simple and not overly extravagant which complimented the band’s humble style. Throughout the performance, Millard spoke to the audience about spirituality.
Toward the end of the set, Millard asked the audience to take their seats. He then began to talk about some personal issues he had growing up. He explained that when he was younger his father used to physically abuse him. It was a very emotional speech and while speaking, Millard seemed hesitant to continue at times, but he managed to continue and the audience eagerly listened. Eventually he told the audience that his father was diagnosed with cancer and he quickly changed who he was. He no longer physically or emotionally abused his son and instead became a man dedicated to God.
Millard explained while he was writing a new song, he was searching for inspiration. He then began to wonder what he would say to his younger self. The band then broke into the song “Dear Younger Me” from their latest album. While the band played, the video monitors displayed the lyrics to the song in the form of words being handwritten on notebook paper.
MercyMe’s final song was probably one of their most iconic and memorable. The audience rose to their feet as the keyboard began playing that familiar tune. Guests raised their hands in the air as Millard began singing “I Can Only Imagine.”
During the song, the audience wasn’t shy about joining in and singing along. As I walked from one end of the crowd to the other, I noticed several people seemed to be lost in a moment of praise, their hands raised high in the air, eyes closed, while they gently swayed from side to side. I also noticed an elderly couple – the man had his arms wrapped tightly around the woman as tears ran down her face as she sang along.
MercyMe put on a great show. They played songs that were energetic and songs that were mellow. They looked great on stage and interacted well with each other. The audience seemed to really connect with the band’s music throughout the night. It’s not every day that you attend a concert and see so many different emotions all in one place, from joyous singing, people crying, to others lost in moments of praise and worship.
I definitely felt the presence of something greater at this concert. Was it the presence of God? I don’t honestly know. It certainly could be possible. It is also possible that it was the overall sense of togetherness that MercyMe brought to the concert.