“Father God I am clay in your hands, help to stay that with through all of life’s demands because they chip and they nag and they pull at me and every little thing I make up my mind to be …. And I pray that I’m an artist that rises above the road that is wide and full of self-love.”
    Those are the words that kick-off Toby Mac’s “Lose My Soul,” one of the singles from his latest offering Portable Sounds. The singer/songwriter, who has been called “one of the 50 most influential evangelical leaders in America,” will headline Winter Jam 2009, one of the biggest Contemporary Christian tours to hit the roads. The 10-week tour brings together some of Christian music’s biggest names for a “house party” that is more about touching the soul than raising the roof.
    {mosimage}In addition to great music, the tour brings evangelist Tony Nolan to the stage to share the word of God in an environment designed to open hearts and change lives. Nolan, the son of a homeless, mentally-ill prostitute, was put in foster care where he suffered unspeakable abuse at the hands of his own foster parents. For the first three years of his life, he was repeatedly sexually abused, brutally beaten and thrown down flights of stairs for sport and burned with cigarettes when he refused to perform perverted sexual acts. At age 3, Tony was adopted by a poor and dysfunctional family for only $200. His adopted father beat and verbally abused Tony regularly. In drunken rages he would often look at Tony in disgust and demand, “Is this all my $200 got me?! I wish I’d never bought you.”
    By the age of 13, he was hooked on drugs and looking for a way out. While contemplating suicide, Nolan was given the word of God, and it not only touched his life, it changed it. Since then, he has seen his role as “helping people get it about God’s great love and salvation.” One way he does that is participating in events like Winter Jam.
Since its inception, Winter Jam has consistently led Pollstar’s rankings in attendance. This past year was no different. In 2008, the tour averaged 9,172 in nightly attendance, which gave it a ranking of fourth in Pollstar’s first quarter ticket sales, topping Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus, the Police and the Foo Fighters. More important to the event organizers than the numbers is the people whose lives are changed — and that goes beyond ticket sales, but unless people are there, organizers understand they can’t hear the “life changing” gospel of Jesus.
    When you look at the sheer number and fame of the bands on the lineup, you would think the tickets would be through the roof. But that isn’t the case. Winter Jam has, from the beginning, had a “no tickets” policy that allows concert attendees to pay a flat $10 fee at the door for admission. That’s a lot of  bang for your buck.
Winter Jam comes to the Crown Coliseum on Saturday, Jan. 10. The show starts at 6 p.m.
    This year’s lineup includes punk pop group Hawk Nelson, Brandon Heath (the GMA New Artist of the Year,) Francesca Battistelli and Stephanie Smith. At select dates, The Afters, Family Force 5 and BarlowGirl will also be on stage. That kind of lineup makes the wait at the box office well worth the price.
    TobyMac says it is his passion that keeps his music relevant. “Passion for my art drives me so long as I feel the Most High breathing new songs through me,” he said. “Over the years, I have noticed some consistency in what I appeal to God for, like ‘Help me remember what this is all about … God, I don’t want to be that jaded man. I don’t want to be that hardened artist. I want to remain soft in your hands, so that you can shape me into a vessel that you can breathe through’ … I expected great, amazing things while recording this record. I’m not talking about sales or first week numbers or critics. I’m talking about people’s lives being touched.”

    Contact Janice Burton at editor@upandcomingweekly.com

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