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Toby Mac & Relient K - Winter Wonder Slam Tour Review

Posted by Natalie Plumb on 12/12 at 12:15 PM

Toby Mac hit up the Bryce Jordan Center for the Winter Wonder Slam Tour with a group of gifted performers. Not only did his band tear up the stage, but opening artists B. Reith, Stephanie Smith and Relient K did, as well. Each artist added a twist to contemporary Christian music, contributing to the Nov. 19 Christmas show that was like no other.

Stephanie Smith, born and raised in State College, was well-received by her hometown. She took advantage of stage space, jumping around and showing off her Penn State jersey. Smith’s act was a unique twist on Christian punk-rock. Her choked vocals gave her a sound similar to that of Gwen Stefani, Pink, Blondie, or even Paramore in her hit single, “Misery Business.”

“I like to praise God best with rock ‘n roll!” Smith shouted.

She finished off her act with a cover favorite: “I Love Rock ‘n Roll,” a Joan Jett and the Blackhearts hit.

Relient K took the stage next. Notwithstanding that the band is often classified as a Christian rock/alternative band, Relient K nonetheless appeals to a wide range of listeners. This is in part because the band contrasts with other contemporary Christian artists.

Relient K appeals to people of all faiths. Relative to other Christian rock groups, Relient K subtly incorporates its members’ faith in Jesus Christ, while not being too forward in its proclamation. Songs including “Be My Escape,” their hit single released on the band’s 2004 album “Mmhmm,” hint at the band members’ dependence on God for their strength.

“It’s not in-your-face Christian music,” said Alexis Chaney, a Relient K fan and a sophomore at the University of Chicago. “That’s why I like them.”

The band has released several albums with an alternative rock sound. Their style within their albums changes pace as many times as does Green Day in its 2004 album release, “American Idiot.” In contrast, Relient K has a softer, less rampant sound than does Green Day.

Toby Mac, the fourth and final Christian artist of the night, and the headliner of the show, put yet another twist on the contemporary Christian genre: hip-hop and rap.

With songs like “Jesus Freak” and “One World,” the band’s sound evoked the Gym Class Heroes or the Black-Eyed Peas. Covers including Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music White Boy,” Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family” and KC and the Sunshine Band’s “That’s the Way (I Like It).”

“I want this Winter Wonder Slam to be the Christmas party I never had!” Toby Mac yelled at the start of the show.

Toby Mac’s songs are known for their catchy tone and sing-along style. However, songs like “No Ordinary Love,” “Oh Come Let Us Adore Him” and “City on Our Knees” were added throughout the night and intertwined with prayer to put the audience in a contemplative mood. In effect, the audience prayed silently, eyes closed, and sang along. Nearly the entire house was standing by the close of the performance.

Throughout Toby Mac’s set, the instrumentalists were set apart, located on the upper tier of the stage, while Toby Mac and his other singers were on stage below. This was a brilliant strategy for the performance overall. The singers were able to move freely all over the stage, incorporating hip-hop and break-dancing into their act.

“It’s so intense,” said Jake Comerford, a senior in mechanical engineering. “That’s got to be exhausting.”

As the singers danced together and played off of one another’s moves, Toby Mac appeared to treat his musicians as trusted friends and companions, bouncing off of them and pretending to wrestle.

Even further reinforcing his companionship with his band, Toby Mac gave every artist on stage the opportunity to perform an extensive solo for the audience, including the saxophone, drums, congo, keyboard, vocals and more.

Toward the end of the show, Toby Mac changed the mood a bit with “Lose My Soul,” a song whose message is that gaining the whole world is not worth losing one’s soul.

“We’re all gonna lose our way, but you don’t have to lose your soul,” Toby Mac said. “You are one turn away from God’s love. Just turn around. His love is right there.”

He transitioned into the song with one last line: “I pray that I am an artist who will rise above the role of self-love,” Toby Mac said.

Toby Mac closed off the show and re-invited the opening bands back on stage. They all sang “Walking in a Winter Wonder Slam” to the tune of “Walking in a Winter Wonderland” several times before exiting the stage with a bang.

To hear more extensive song selections by Toby Mac, visit To hear more extensive song selections by Relient K, visit

{name} Author: Natalie Plumb
Bio: Natalie Plumb is a sophomore in Penn State's College of Communications' print journalism program. She enjoys writing, singing, playing guitar, reading, dancing, speaking French, traveling, playing basketball and softball, ballet, choir, tennis, skateboarding, snowboarding, swimming, and growing in her faith. Her favorite music genres tend to be techno, folk, gospel/religious, and, of course, just about anything you can dance to. That said, her favorite bands are not too exclusive. She enjoys experimenting and hears new bands often. Though most of these artists are mainstream, her favorite artists include, but are not limited to, Josh Groban, Natalie Grant, Carrie Underwood, Radiohead, Big Daddy Weave, John Mayer, Relient K, Jewel, Ju White, Fleetwood Mac, Stacie Orrico, Kelly Clarkson, Black Eyed Peas, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Cascada, Nine Days, Eve 6, Mae, Aerosmith, Ben Folds Five, Akon, The Wreckers, and many more


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