Perf. Arts

Jars of Clay brings Christmas tour to Fox River



By TOM JOZWIK - Special to TimeOut

December 13, 2013


WAUKESHA - Jars of Clay, a Christian rock band with three Grammy Awards to its credit, brings its Christmas tour to Fox River Christian Church on Sunday.

The 7 p.m. concert will benefit Blood: Water Mission, a charity established in 2002 by the band to combat HIV/AIDS in Africa. Band member Charlie Lowell, who has visited Africa several times, told TimeOut that its people are “amazing, dynamic (and) very hopeful” in spite of the severe hardships they experience.

Sunday’s concert will combine Christmas tunes with songs from the band’s recently released “Inland” album and other Jars of Clay numbers. John Mark McMillan, an alternative rocker perhaps best known for the song “How He Loves,” will be special guest performer.

Jars of Clay’s list of accomplishments is a long one. The band - consisting of lead singer Dan Haseltine, Steve Mason, Matt Odmark and Lowell - has had 16 No. 1 songs and sold 5 million records. The band has collaborated with Joanne Cash, Art Garfunkel and Carole King and shared the stage with Sheryl Crow, Melissa Etheridge and Lenny Kravitz. TV appearances have included “CBS Sunday Morning,” “Entertainment Tonight” and the David Letterman and Conan O’Brien shows. Jars of Clay songs can be heard in various movies.

Jars of Clay has existed nearly 20 years, a musical group’s equivalent to an individual’s lifetime. Three of its members have performed from the beginning, when all were students at Greenville College in Illinois. Only Odmark is not an original.

“Our Christmas concerts tend to be the most creative events of the year for Jars of Clay,” Haseltine noted through a publicist. “We incorporate toy pianos, concert bass drums, mini-bass, xylophones, strings and bells, along with all the usual instruments, lights and presentation to shine a warm light on a season of peace and joy.”

By telephone from the Nashville area, where all the band’s members reside, Lowell, 40, indicated Fox River concertgoers will listen to “some quirky, interesting arrangements” of songs of the season. Among the melodies likely to be heard Sunday: “Fall Asleep,” an Inland piano ballad. All proceeds from this single are reportedly being used to support the Red Cross in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan.

Waukesha represents the last leg of the Jars of Clay tour, Lowell told TimeOut.

The schedule was to have included three stops in Texas (until the Dallas concert was snowed out) and performances in Kentucky and Ohio. Lowell, who plays piano, organ and synthesizer besides providing background vocals, identified the irregular “coming and going, the sort of wear and tear on (one’s) family” that touring causes as the hardest part of his professional life. The best aspect, he said, “is the creative process. It’s just a ride!”

The band’s charitable efforts, which have also included affiliations with Amnesty International and Habitat for Humanity, have been influenced, Lowell said, by members’ “favorite artists” from their younger days. Artists like U2, Peter Gabriel and Sting, performers who were generously “involved in something bigger than their music.”

As already established, 20 years is a long, long life for a band. But no plans for Jars of Clay to cease and desist came to light during the Lowell interview. “We’re certainly enjoying this process,” he said, noting that the bandmates still manage to “laugh a lot” among themselves. Then again, Lowell added, “the business is squeezing and shrinking. It’s making (being a band professional) more difficult every year.”

At a glance

What: Jars of Clay with John Mark McMillian

When: 7 p.m. Sunday (doors open at 6 p.m.

Where: Fox River Christian Church, S46-W24130 Lawnsdale Road, Waukesha

Cost: Through Saturday, tickets are $18 for the artist circle and $12 for admission. At the door, the prices are $20 for the artist circle and $15 for general admission.

Info: 262-544-6000