Teens, families and music fans of all ages are in for a great experience Friday when Winter Jam Tour Spectacular 2018 makes its way to the Bryce Jordan Center. The one-night show features headliner Skillet, an easily recognizable name to anyone familiar with the world of Christian rock.
Formed in 1996, Skillet was on the forefront of the Christian rock music scene, mixing lyrics of hope with mainstream sounds and performance styles.
Skillet has performed on the Winter Jam tour more than once, and, according to frontman John Cooper, it’s just as fun for the band as it is for the audience.
“Any band going on tour and playing in front of this amount of people is going to probably have a good time,” he said. “The crowds are really astonishing; (it’s) one of the biggest tours of the year, especially during that time period of the year ... so it’s just massive amounts of people. I like that it’s a little bit of a circus, in a positive way.”
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Cooper and his bandmates have been hard at work prepping for the concert, investing large amounts of time and planning into not only their performance, but also the production aspect of the show.
“I like to do a lot of production to ... surprise people and do something I’ve never done before,” he said. “People that have seen us already go, ‘Oh, I have to come back because you never know what Skillet’s going to do.’ ”
While Cooper referenced some pyrotechnics they’ve been working on, he said he can’t give away the biggest surprises.
“I think as an artist you should give the crowd more than they paid for, so they want to come back again,” he said. “For me it’s an incredible amount of rehearsal, of stage planning, everybody has to be in the right spot at the right time.”
Whatever goes down on show night, the production value seen at Winter Jam is certainly impressive for the ticket price — $15.
“Skillet does a lot of mainstream touring all over the world. We’ve opened for Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne — pretty much all the largest metal hard rock acts in the world and the production of Winter Jam is easily as big if not bigger than any tour we’ve done,” Cooper said. “The production is really fantastic. In other words, you’re not getting a $15 cheap concert that wasn’t good; it’s at least as good as what’s out there, if not better than what’s out there.”
While the experience and production value at Winter Jam — which brands itself as Christian music’s largest annual tour — may be on par with the secular industry, there’s one thing that makes it stand apart.
“I think people go to concerts and, afterward, they may have had a good time, but ... rock concerts can be very angry, and I might enjoy the show, but I don’t leave feeling empowered in my life and that my life can be full of hope and happiness,” Cooper said. “But when people come to a concert like this, they get that kind of feeling and teenagers are looking for — we’re all looking for that — but teenagers are at a time when they need that (feeling])”
Teens and young adults are Winter Jam’s primary audience, as it delivers a message of hope and encouragement, while still providing a fun night out, that even parents can enjoy and that doesn’t feel overtly religious.
“Skillet has a lot of fans that are not religious at all, who like Skillet because our music is hopeful in general,” Cooper said. “I have a real soft place for young people who feel confused, abandoned and misunderstood. I knew how that felt growing up, so a lot of my songs deal with those kinds of things.”
He notes that, with suicide rates for young people rising, “something is missing and (Winter Jam) is an opportunity for us to share our hope.”
In addition to Skillet, Winter Jam Tour Spectacular 2018 will feature Kari Jobe, Building 429, KB, NewSong, Jordan Feliz, Dan Bremnes, Mallary Hope, Westover and Nick Hall. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the concert starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are not available for pre-purchase.
IF YOU GO
- What: Winter Jam
- When: 7 p.m. Friday
- Where: Bryce Jordan Center, University Park
- Info: www.bjc.psu.edu