Concert Review: MercyMe “Always Only Jesus”

Christian band MercyMe played the Fargo Dome on April 11

MercyMe, Newsboys, and David Leonard are touring the country together this spring.
Photo courtesy | Katie Leier

A few weeks ago on April 11, the Fargo Dome was one of the stops for the “Always Only Jesus” tour by Christian band MercyMe, supporting their new album by the same name. MercyMe is celebrating their 30th anniversary as a band this year, and they’re still going strong.

Touring with the band currently is Christian singer-songwriter David Leonard, as well as the longtime Christian rock band, Newsboys. These opening acts were just as powerful as the main attraction.

David Leonard took the stage first. Before the concert, I knew very little about him and couldn’t even name one of his songs. I typically do a quick Google search of artists I don’t know before heading into their concert. This time, however, I decided to surprise myself, and I wasn’t disappointed!

Leonard’s discography includes “Good Lord” and “Light a Fire,” both released last year. These songs were a hit to start off the night, and although he was on stage for less than half an hour, it’s safe to say that it was just enough to get everyone excited for the next act.

The Newsboys have been a group since 1985. Originally founded in Australia, they didn’t gain attention for their Christian music until 1992. Since then, the band has rotated through multiple different members, but their music never grows old.

Longtime staples, “Born Again” and “He Reigns” had the crowd up and dancing, and both are personal favorites of mine that I’m glad were included. The best part for some of the older audience members, who have been listening since the group started out, was their walk down memory lane. Each band member had a chance to name a favorite song from decades past, and the band would play through at least part of each song.

This includes the Newsboys’ breakout Christian single “Shine” from 1994, which is forever one of the best Christian songs of all time (for me at least). Lead singer Michael Tait also used to be the front for Christian rock/rap trio, dc Talk, before joining the Newsboys. dc Talk’s song “In the Light” was Tait’s choice for a throwback. That is definitely a song I never thought I would hear in concert considering it was released in 1995, and the original members, although they still release music separately, rarely get together to perform anymore. 

Newsboys also rounded their night out with their hit “God’s Not Dead,” which was also the inspiration for the movie series by the same title.  

After intermission, MercyMe took the stage, starting with their song “Grace Amazing” from their newest album. The joke was made about how excited the band is to share new music, but in reality, everyone was just waiting to hear a song they already know and love, especially from a band that has such an extended career.

Not to worry; the band quickly followed up with the established favorites of “Grace Got You,” “Flawless” and “Almost Home.”

This was my third MercyMe concert to date, and each time, lead singer Bart Millard is quick with humor and a chill delivery that always takes me by surprise. He does well with connecting their songs to the stories that inspired them or life events that keep holding the songs to be true. 

Millard’s son, Sam Wesley, joined the band onstage for their song “On Our Way.” Wesley is a musician himself, and “On Our Way” is one of the first songs he was featured in. 

Close to the end, MercyMe played “Then Christ Came,” for which David Leonard joined them onstage. Leonard was a co-writer on this hit and is featured in some versions of the song’s recording, which is another surprise for me because it is one of my favorite songs off their album “inhale(exhale).”

As a tradition, Bart Millard led the audience in an acoustic version of “It Is Well With My Soul.” Singing one of the most memorable hymns ever written in a packed stadium, without any music—especially after Millard steps away from the mic and lets the audience carry the tune alone—is unlike any other concert experience.

This always leads into their song “Even If,” where the lyrics sing of trusting God even when His will is not your own, when life is a struggle and our only hope is to cling to God and trust His plan.

They closed the set with “Say I Won’t,” which brought much of the audience to tears.

The song was played with a video in the background of a close friend of the MercyMe band. Gary Miracle used to work with MercyMe, and in January 2020, Miracle lost both arms and both legs after being airlifted to the hospital with septic shock due to flu complications. His story inspired the song, and the video at the concert showed footage of Miracle in the hospital recovering, all the way through his progress in therapy and adapting to life without limbs. He learns to use prosthetic arms and legs and at one point is shown running a marathon with his close friends.

Videos of his running in his new legs for the first time hit home with the matching lyrics: “I’m gonna run/No, I’m gonna fly/I’m gonna know what it means to live and not just be alive/The world’s gonna hear ’cause I’m gonna shout/And I will be dancing when circumstances drown the music out/Say I won’t.”

It was a touching way to end the evening.

For decades, these bands have been bringing music into our homes, cars, businesses, headphones and lives. Seeing them come together is something beautiful, and this concert with my dad and sister is an unmatchable experience. I loved hearing their own faith stories written into each of their songs and seeing them all come together. Concerts rarely disappoint, and this one was definitely worth the late Thursday night. 

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