The fourth and final concert that we attended while on vacation is one that I look forward to every year – the Superman Festival. For four days the city of Metropolis, Illinois is the hub of festivities. Booths line each side of the street displaying all kind of goodies (including peanut butter funnel cakes!…very good!) There is always a contest to dress up like Superman, a chance to meet actors from the TV series Smallville, and of course my favorite activity of them all – the Gospel Sing! For the second year running, Brian Free and Assurance have brought the Gospel in song to those who gather under the shade of the Metro Tent, and I was happy to be among them. Though, one thing I was NOT happy about was having to wait until 7:30 p.m. for the concert! (When do Gospel Sings begin that late???) Anyway, at least there was plenty to do!
We were very blessed to have plenty of friends to hang out with while we waited. A couple that attends the Steve Hurst School of Music came down, Eddie and Debbie, (from Kentucky) and we also met up with some friends from our next of the woods, Kim and Julie, (from Missouri) who we always see at BFA concerts around the area. The afternoon had some fun activities, including the opening ceremony for the festival. As everyone gathered around the Superman Statue, the mayor of Metropolis was there, along with Mr. Superman himself and a few Superman Staff members. They were very proud to have a letter from a soldier stationed at Camp Justice in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba who always attended the festival in years past, but due to service had to miss this year. However, he sent a gift for the festival – an American flag that was flown over Camp Justice on May 1st! This flag was raised at the opening ceremony in Metropolis by the National Guard and received much applause. After the mayor opened the ceremony with prayer, it was time for the next activity of the day – meet Superman!For the about 1-2 hours, the contest winner for last year’s costume contest posed in front of the statue for photo’s with fans. Now, I just know you all are wondering if Lynn had her picture taken with Superman…and the answer is yes! I couldn’t pass up an opportunity like that, eh? Nor could I resist when Batman appeared in the town square either! LOL From that time on, the Metro Tent had another group performing on its stage, a show called Gospel Guitars. Though we didn’t listen ourselves, our friends Kim and Julie did. They said that at one point the gentlemen on stage playing informed their audience that the song they just played was the last one they knew, so they were just going to play all the ones they already did over again! LOL
Finally! The waiting was over when Brian Free and Assurance walked on stage and opened the evening with What A Beautiful Day. (It truly did describe the lovely day that we had that afternoon and evening.) Before they could even finished the song the crowd was cheering them on with applause. Brian Free encouraged everyone to clap along for their second number, Go Tell The World – and folks sure did! Keeping the atmosphere upbeat with another fast song, Anything Is Possible, followed. A song that lead singer Bill Shivers sings the verses of, and that talks about how nothing is impossible for God. Between verses he asked the crowd, “Does anyone here tonight believe that?” And at the closing note, added, “Aren’t you glad that we serve a God, where nothing is impossible for Him? We love You Lord!” As that last song ended with a question, so the following ballad began with one. “How many believe that the Bible is still the holy and infallible Word of God?” Brian inquired raising his hand indicating the answer to his own question, in hopes of the audience doing the same. His solo, I Believe, spoke of that very thing. The next song also featured the upper range of Brian’s tenor vocals and was an old song quartet song called Glory Road. He hit the high notes perfectly, which generated a very loud response from the fans. So much so, that Bill grabbed Brian’s arm and exclaimed, “Brian! Can you sing just a little bit more?” As Brian shook his head no the crowd continued their cheers of support for Bills suggestion. So they sang an encore and the crowd loved it so much they gave the guys a standing ovation. Seeing the audiences delight, Bill exclaimed, “Do it again!” Brian replied, “No! I’m not doing it again!” LOL Then Brian stepped up and thanked everyone for coming and shared how they already had received a lot of requested songs. “In matter of fact,” Brian kidded, “ya’ll requested a lot of songs…118 to be exact.” Looking at his watch he continued, “If we were to do all them we’d be here to 3 a.m.” LOL Another classic came next, Just A Little Talk With Jesus, a good ole’ bass solo that featured Jeremy Lile. The crowd liked that one just as much as they did Brian’s feature. Afterwards Brian teased, “I could sing just like that before my voice changed.” LOL He introduced the group next, and began with Bill – the groups “energizer bunny” according to Brian. This lead singer doesn’t have an “off” switch so to speak, but is “on” all the time! He also told stories on Derrick and Jeremy too, and Bill returned to favor when he introduced Brian. After sharing with the crowd that Brian is now a grandfather, a single voice shouted out from around the center aisle. Without missing a beat Bill turned to Brian and said, “We got a yeller down here, Brian!” Many more like shouts where heard throughout the evening. Bill introduced the next number by saying, “This is our brand new radio single.” The Part Where You Come In is that song that’s climbing the charts for BFA (hope it goes to #1! *fingers crossed*) Anyway, another bass feature followed, a ballad by the name of Remind Me Of The Cross. As the audience applauded for this ballad, another tune was already playing – I Keep Looking Up. Brian asked, “How many are looking forward to His coming?” Because of the casual atmosphere, the guys gave a quick CD pitch, and then featured Brian on For God So Loved. From center stage, he delivered the sweet lyrics with tender emotion, which climaxed to a powerful bridge and ending. Fans rapidly stood to their feet in ovation. With lyrics like, “It seemed that all was over when they placed him in the grave – but death’s victory march was ended on that resurrection day….” How could it not be? BFA’s signature song, Long As I Got King Jesus, closed the first set with a standing ovation of its own.
Everyone enjoyed a brief intermission while the guys sold product and the sun slowing sinking below the horizon. By the time BFA walked on stage for the second time the stars were shining, a cool evening breeze wafted through the tent and though most festival attendees were leaving, the Metro Tent remained packed to hear a little more singing!
Brian announced that the second set was going to begin with a request for some accappella music! After a soft “hum” the guys launched into Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee, meeting that wish with soothing harmonies. “This is an old song,” Bill called out by way of introduction, “if you know it, sing!” First Day In Heaven met our ears and worked its way into our hands which automatically began to clap with the beat. As the music for You Must Have Met Him followed, Bill shared, “One day I will never forget – the day I got saved.” For as many times as I’ve seen him sing this song, that night was exceptional – his interpretation was perfect! When Bill took a few steps back signaling his features end, Brian stepped into the blue, red and yellow stage lights for another tenor solo. This old song, Oh What A Savior, has captured many hearts over the years, and from the standing ovation they received that night, I’d say it still is. As the applause died down and everyone took to their seats, Brian shared his heart with the Gospel message…
“If there is anybody here tonight that doesn’t know the Savior that we’ve been singing about for the last couple of hours…we do want you to know, that you don’t have to leave here tonight without knowing Him. The four guys you see on this stage and I’m sure many other people in the audience tonight,would love to pray with you and would love to lead you to Jesus. Listen, the bare facts are: there is a heaven and there is a hell. Every human being on the face of this earth will spend eternity in one of those two places. If you want to see heaven and if you want to enjoy the greatest life on the face of this earth and you want to accept this gift that was given to you when our Lord Jesus Christ gave His life on Calvary and shed His blood for your sin – you can do that. There is a sad misconception that if you are a good person and maybe join a church somewhere, do good deeds, do this do that, that there is no way that God would send you to hell. It is actually your choice. You are a free moral agent, you have been given the choice. But the Word of God is very plain, “Ye must be born again.” Anything less than that – we’re lost. I lived the first 23 years of my life lost, even though I was in a Christian home, I was always in church – I just adopted the Christian lifestyle and lived the life for a long time, but that would not get me to heaven. You can quote Scripture from Genesis to Revelation, you can impress someone by the way you look, the way you sound, the places you go and the way you appear, it still won’t get you to heaven…please, it takes that relationship with Jesus Christ. Here in these last days, which I believe with all my heart we’re in, your time is short. God loves you so much that He sent His only Son Jesus, and watched Him die a cruel death on Calvary and shed His blood and become the ultimate sacrifice for your sin and my sin. We’re all on the same level ground. God is no respecter of persons, He loves us all. But we do have the choice as to where we spend eternity. Please, tonight if you’ve heard nothing else we’ve said or sung, don’t leave here lost if that’s the way you came in, we’d love to pray with you and lead you to Jesus.”
With those closing words, he introduced their final song as Jesus Will Pick You Up, and let Jeremy loose on it. Towards the end of the song as the number was building, someone usually pretends to push someone else off the stage, but this time Derrick playfully stepped on Brian’s shoe! LOL As the guys held the last note the audience stood to their feet clapping, cheering and shouting for the excellent singing we just heard!
Conclusion: What can I say? – The guys were awesome! Though the festival is a really fun, I must admit, they don’t have the best lighting when it came to the stage. Derrick and Jeremy were singing in the dark! It was great to be able to spend time with friends and family during the day and I highly recommend that you check out Kim’s blog at http://auntkimmerstravels.wordpress.com/2012/06/09/worth-every-mile-to-see-bfa/ – she did a great job with reviewing the day!
Thanks guys for being such a great encouragement!