When The Rock and Worship Roadshow 2013 arrived at EnergySolutions Arena last February, it was the first time the Christian rock extravaganza had come to Utah.
The Midwest and the South are must-stop locations for top Christian rock tours, but like-minded acts occasionally skip Utah and much of the West because of a lack of interest.
Rock and Worship Roadshow 2014
With » Skillet, Third Day, Andy Mineo, Jamie Grace, Royal Tailor and more
When » Sunday, Feb. 16, at 6 p.m.
Where » Maverik Center, 3200 Decker Lake Drive, West Valley City
Tickets » $10 at the door or in advance at box office
"We decided to add Salt Lake City because it’s a vibrant community," Cliff Reiser, owner and president of Rush Concerts, said before the 2013 Roadshow. "People need to come out if they want us back."
They did. The Roadshow drew an attendance of 6,300 last year and will return to Utah on Sunday, Feb. 16, at the Maverik Center.
The Salt Lake City crowd was smaller than the 9,000 average attendance at the tour’s 19 concerts, which included traditionally favorable markets in Alabama, Missouri, Louisiana and Texas. But Reiser said the figure was "respectable for the first year."
"The feedback we received [in 2013] was encouraging," he said. "People were very appreciative of an event like the Roadshow coming to their community. We certainly hope to build on that this year with another great package of talent and ministry."
Notably absent from the sixth edition of the Roadshow is MercyMe, which runs the event along with Ohio-based Rush Concerts. But the headliners — Skillet and Third Day — are arguably better-known. The long list of supporting acts includes Andy Mineo, Jamie Grace and Royal Tailor.
"The Roadshow still remains our vision and baby, but we thought it was time for us to take a year off and allow other great bands like Skillet and Third Day to join in the fun," said MercyMe’s Bart Millard in a statement. "We know fans will continue to support the Roadshow with these great artists. And, don’t worry, we’ll be back in the tour again."
Skillet is part of the Roadshow for the first time, and is following up a busy 2013 that featured tours with secular acts Shinedown, Papa Roach and Nickelback. The Tennessee veteran band is led by John Cooper, who once sang in a progressive rock band before his pastor encouraged him to create a Christian-leaning side project. That side project has led to nine albums, with the most recent record, 2011’s "Rise," debuting at No. 4 on the Billboard all-genre chart. The band’s previous album, "Awake," made headlines when it became one of just three rock albums to be certified platinum in 2012, alongside the Black Keys’ "El Camino" and Mumford & Sons’ "Babel."
Cooper said the band, which last performed in Utah at the decidedly secular Saltair, has toured with MercyMe in the past and welcomed the opportunity to be on this Christian tour. "I think it’s wonderful," he said. "It’s not so much a concert as an event."
The Roadshow attracted Skillet because of its $10 ticket price, which makes it easier for entire families to come. The positive vibes of the show make Cooper "slightly manipulate the way I communicate with the crowd," he said. "It’s different from a rock music [tour], which is more about music and less about banter." He likened the Roadshow to the celebratory and inclusive atmosphere usually seen at country shows, which allows him to talk to the audience, tell jokes and banter with bandmates.
Skillet rarely sings about Jesus, but Cooper welcomed the way to reconnect with Christian fans. "People have told me that it hurts us when we do Christian [magazine] interviews and do Christian tours," he said. He doesn’t care. "We are so comfortable with being ourselves."
As for Utah, he acknowledged that while his band has toured the Beehive State several times, "Utah is not a place we come to often. It’s been a couple of years since we’ve been to the West."
Skillet and Third Day will tour together after the Maverik Center date, which is the Roadshow’s final stop.
Georgia-based Third Day was last in Utah in May 2012, headlining Abravanel Hall, and has sold more than 10 million albums since coalescing in 1991. Its most recent album, "Miracle," peaked at No. 10 on the Billboard all-genre album chart.
Bassist Tai Anderson welcomed the chance to tour on the Roadshow, saying it was "a different kind of tour for us. … It’s a very eclectic night of music."
Stopping in Utah is great for the bands involved, he said.
"They’re all becoming viable markets," he said about many places in the West. "Tours like this help make new fans. A lot more Christian acts are going to the West and not treating it as an afterthought."
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