In January, I saw a band called Bluetree perform at an Agape UK conference in Nottingham, England. The journalist in me took notes, wanting to write a speedy concert review. Needless to say, that didn’t happen. These past two days I have been in leadership meetings for all of Agape Italia. It has been some heavy thinking, some fantastic teaching, and great application points. So I should write about that, right? Well, needless to say, my brain is a little fried and I need to write about something a little lighter. Hence, I give you my personalized, unjournalistic (because it includes first person and heavy opinion) concert review of Bluetree, a month and a half late.
As the lights dimmed, I had no idea of what to expect. The only thing I had heard of this band was that they wrote a fantastic song called “God of This City.” But looking at the stage, I wasn’t exactly expecting a Chris Tomlin carbon copy; the electronics and two Macbooks just screamed “high tech hipster pop punk.”
The six boys from Northern Ireland trotted out and didn’t waste time; the electronic beat began its metronome time from the keyboard, the bass kicked in with the drums, the keys adding color and suddenly the stage exploded with sound as the rest joined in. This was not going to be a low-key worship service.
Soaring above the wall of sound was lead singer Aaron Boyd voice, somewhat similar to his British Coldplay cousins, yet rarely having to revert to falsetto to hit the high notes. Instead, the full extent of the rockstar yell was employed, capturing the passion in the music. As he smiled and rocked back, reaching down to fire from his six-string notes to attack the silence, the joy was palpable.
Both visually and audibly landing between the pulpit and the pub, the scarves and ties were paired with tattoos, sacred lyrics with good Irish rock. In what I consider one of the hardest feats for a worship band, they had fun and put on a great performance without being pretentious, without a “look at me” attitude. They even did the seemingly impossible; they played “Light the Fire” and made it cool.
Their sound was at times influenced by the “techno madness” served up by Pete Kernoghan, at times by chunky chords and other times by U2 atmospheric rock. Solidly landing in the rock category, it rarely felt recycled, or typical, avoiding most Christian clichés and feeling genuine. Soaring at times, at other times it quieted to an intimate encounter between the individual and God, with the band simply providing the background music.
The audience loved it and the band loved the audience, frequently making jokes, pulling members on stage to do actions or sing with them. Their self-depreciating humor reached its pinnacle when they rocked out to Jock Jams on stage for their encore, dancing with unbridled idiocy to the solid 90’s beat.
The Christian music industry, specifically worship music, often catches flack for mediocrity, commercialism and lack of creativity. It is a beautiful thing to see a band of Irish musicians turn those assumptions on their head, sticking out like a blue tree in a forest of green.