There are some nights that every faithful concert goer has experienced that just leave them scratching their heads. And ironically, it’s not the performers to blame for this puzzlement but rather the lacking crowd that was set to miss one of the better shows to come through the area in some time. Such it was on November 13 as the “Death Be Not Proud” tour, featuring Audrey Assad and Bellarive swept into Tampa’s Mary Help of Christians. And while the crowd of just under 500 attendees may have felt small, Assad and Bellarive played the show like they were performing for thousands, making it a memorable night for all.
Bellarive was up first and, in some ways, was an interesting opener for the more demure Assad. Yet, interesting choice or not, the band brought it from the first note, lead vocalist and songwriter Sean Curran jokingly acknowledging from the stage that many in attendance might not know who they were but that by the end of the night, they’d all be family. And after declaring the night as one of prayer and communion with God, Curran and company began to make good on that promise.
Photo Credit: @JoshD98
Their bright energy brought the better part of the crowd to its feet, Curran’s brilliant electricity like a young Jerry Lee Lewis as he rocked the keyboards, Josh Luker and Kenny Werner adding to the fray with their thudding bass and drums. Melissa Mage provided atmospheric vocals with Curran, at times taking lead, while Mike Mage filled in the extra spaces with his stellar guitar work. Throughout their set, the band showcased their signature brand of eclectic worship music, a style that is more attuned to that of John Mark MacMillan and the like that perhaps Chris Tomlin but that is no less passionate. One of the key highlights was a killer cover of modern hymn “In Christ Alone,” Melissa providing an ethereal backing vocal that just lifted the track into another realm. But the true standout from this set was the band’s original tune, “Lazarus,” from their most recent project, which just sizzled with bright energy and passion, bringing cheers from the dancing audience.
After a brief stage change, Assad was up and ready to deliver. Her soulful voice and piano were more than enough to hold the crowd but it didn’t hurt that she was backed by a full band. And while her set was much more subdued than the previous one, it didn’t seem to faze anyone, her powerful songwriting skills and wise cover choices winning over the audience.
Photo Credit: Tyler Greenhalgh
Through a setlist that included originals like “Lamb of God,” “Lead Me On,” and “You Speak,” the artist took time to share her heart and story throughout the night. It was an honest, authentic time of sharing where she didn’t shy away from acknowledging moments of doubt and pain while also offering hope through a message of faith. Those messages were clearly evident in her originals but gained extra bolster through her covers as she gently rang through John Mark MacMillan’s “Death In His Grave” and the late Rich Mullins’ “I See You.” But it was her closer, a stark, almost haunting confession in “Lord, I Need You” that really cemented the night, the earnest confession ringing through the crowd for a poignant moment after its final note had rung, marking the night as something more holy than just a simple concert.