During an early break between songs on for King & Country’s “A Drummer Boy Christmas Tour” stop at Wells Fargo Arena Thursday night, vocalist Joel Smallbone gave the 10,000+ audience members a geography lesson.
Smallbone and his brother, Luke, who comprise one of the most successful duos in Christian music these days, are originally from Australia. There, because it’s on the other side of the world, Christmas falls in July, he informed them, resulting in some of the more classic Christmas songs being turned into real head-scratchers for snow-less Aussies.
“Every time I hear ‘Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire,’ it’s kind of odd,” he told the packed arena. “Because in Australia, the only fire during Christmas season is a bush fire!”
The remark set the tone for the night, one in which the Smallbone brothers showed unequivocally who rules the Christian music roost.
The duo, along with their six-piece band, played their Top 10 album “A Drummer Boy Christmas” for the first time ever in its entirety, opening the show with the rousing rendition of “Joy To The World,” followed by another winter time standard, “Oh Come Emmanuel,” on stop number seven on the 14-date tour.
If Des Moines was any indication, the rest of the U.S. is in for a treat. The Smallbones were spot-on with their vocal deliveries throughout the night, a brotherly ying to the other’s yang. The energetic duo was as entertaining visually as they were vocally, dancing and running around the in-the-round-style stage with ease all night. Sure, there were likely recorded musical parts here and there to make the sound fuller, but at the end of the day, Christmas is about being wowed. And that’s exactly what they did.
A circular video screen was set in the back of the stage, canopied by an amphitheater-looking backdrop which changed colors and reflective patterns throughout the show. To their credit, the Smallbones avoided the oft-repeated red and green Christmas-time color themes, instead going with more ethereal doses of purples, golds and burgundies. The two frequently employed a smaller, elevating platform at the end of the ramps in the center of the arena, and at one point during the rousing rendition of “Silent Night,” were 30 feet in the air while looking over a crowd of lit-up cell phones.
The songs — Christmas and otherwise — flowed seamlessly due to the pair’s unique takes on the songs. “Priceless,” from the duo’s 2014 album, “Run Wild, Live Free, Love Strong,” led to “Burn The Ships,” then” Together” to close out set No. 1. After a 15-minute break, the duo returned to perform chart-topping singles, “Relate,” “Fix My Eyes,” and “God Only Knows.”
No for King & Country show would be complete — especially on this night — without what has become the band’s signature song, “Little Drummer Boy,” with the snare drum wielding Joel leading the way. “Joy” closed out the more than 120-minute show.
It’s virtually impossible to not like the personable and affable Smallbones. They’re as humble as they are talented, and go over especially well within the spirited backdrop of the Christmas season.
Now bring on the snow.
By Darren Tromblay