It happened on a Wednesday evening in October 1975. That was the day I went to my first concert that featured a nationally recognized band. I was a freshman in college and the concert was in an arena that was located near the college campus. The band that played was the Beach Boys. They toured the country that year and performed in 100 concerts throughout the United States.
The arena where the concert was held had a seating capacity of 8,000, and it appeared as though all the seats were taken. Most of the people who attended the concert were from the college I was attending, which had more than 20,000 students.
The warm-up act was The Eddie Boy Band, which was an overrated bar band from Chicago. Instead of paying attention to the warm-up band, the people in the crowd messed around and talked to each other. At one point, someone in the crowd started flinging Frisbees into the air, with each one going in a different direction. Before long, there were five or six Frisbees flying around inside the arena. Whoever caught a Frisbee immediately launched it back into the air. When it came back down into the crowd, the next person who caught it immediately launched it again, in a different direction. Some of the Frisbees made it all the way up into the roof rafters before coming back down into the crowd. The Frisbees were different colors, which provided an added effect when they crossed in the air. Needless to say, the crowd’s fun with the Frisbees was much more entertaining than the band from Chicago.
The Beach Boys finally appeared on stage and started singing “Sloop John B.” The crowd went crazy. The dramatic change in the level of energy was remarkable and stayed at the same level throughout the rest of the concert.
The harmony of the group of men who were singing on stage was flawless. Most of the songs they performed were from the mid-60s, when the Beach Boys were at the peak of their creativity. The final two songs were “Barbara Ann” and “Fun, Fun, Fun.” I can hear each of those songs in my mind right now.
There was one thing that happened during the concert that I had never seen. When the Beach Boys performed a favorite song of most of the people in the crowd, there were more than a thousand people who raised their right hand in the air. In each of their hands was a disposable lighter that they had ignited. All you could see throughout the dark arena were the small flickering flames from the lighters. The people who were holding the lighters waved their hands back and forth as a tribute to the band and the song they were singing. The visual beauty of all those flames combined with the emotions that were being stimulated by the music and the enthusiasm of crowd was exhilarating.
After the song was finished, an announcement was made over the public address system (PA system) that lighters were not allowed in the arena. The announcer threatened to end the concert if people continued to use their lighters. Later in the concert, when the Beach Boys played another one of their beloved songs, the crowd acted as though they had not heard the announcement and did the same thing they had done before. They lit up the arena with their lighters to show their approval of the band and the song they were playing. When the song was finished, the same announcer came over the PA system and made the same threat.
Toward the end of the concert, when the Beach Boys walked off the stage in what appeared to be their last song, the arms of the people in the crowd rose up again with lighters in hand and flames flickering. They held their lighters in the air until the band came out for an encore. I later learned that it was a common practice at large concerts to use lighters for two purposes: (1) to pay tribute and show appreciation for the song and the singer or group that was performing the song, and (2) to request an encore. Apparently, the practice of using lighters at concerts began in the late 1960s and became much more prevalent in the early 1970s, when the disposable Bic lighter was invented and sold in the United States.
I had forgotten about the practice of using lighters at concerts until last Thursday (October 28), when I attended a concert at the Grossinger Motors Arena in Bloomington, Illinois. The seating capacity for the arena was the same as the arena where the Beach Boys concert was held — 8,000. The featured performer at the concert was Lauren Daigle, a 30-year-old contemporary Christian music singer and songwriter.
Daigle’s first single, “Light of the World,” was released in 2013. Her first full-length album, “How Can It Be,” was released in 2015, and made it to number one on the Billboard Christian Albums Chart. Since then, she has won two Grammy Awards, seven GMA Dove Awards, two American Music Awards, and five Billboard Music Awards. Four of her singles have appeared on the Hot Christian Songs Chart.
I first became aware of Daigle’s Christian music during the summer of 2019, when I was dealing with some personal issues that were causing me a lot of confusion, frustration, and anger. I’m not going to share what those struggles were, but I will say that what I went through was one of only a handful of times in my life when I was unable to figure out how to work through what was bothering me. Despite my struggles, I continued to attend daily mass, pray a daily rosary, visit our Lord in the Adoration Chapel, and engage in all the other prayer rituals that I had always relied on.
What bothered me the most at that time was that my prayers didn’t seem to be working, but I kept telling myself, “The Blessed Mother is going to work this out for me. I just need to have faith and be patient.” She did not let me down. It just took her a lot longer than usual, primarily because what I was struggling with involved other people who had free wills that I had no control over.
One evening, during the period of time that I was struggling with those issues, I was doing some routine work at my office and I had Christian music playing on YouTube. At one point, after one of the Christian songs ended, the song “Trust In You” started playing. The voice of the woman who was singing the song sounded like Adele, who at that time was a popular singer from London. If you’ve ever heard any of Adele’s songs, you know that she has a very unusual, distinct voice that is easily recognizable. Until that moment, I had not heard any other woman with a voice that sounded like Adele’s voice.
I looked to see who was singing and it was someone who I had never heard of — Lauren Daigle. While words speak to the mind, there are times when music speaks directly to the soul. As I listened to the song, “Trust In You,” the message that it conveyed spoke directly to my soul and addressed the struggles that I was going through.
For more than 30 minutes after I heard that song, I didn’t get any work done because I looked up and listened to several other Lauren Daigle songs. After that, I went to Amazon and ordered one of Daigle’s CDs. When the CD arrived, I transferred two of her songs to my iPhone, “Trust In You” and “You Say.” I listened to those two songs every day for the next several months, while I took my shower and got ready for work. Within a short period of time, I memorized the lyrics to both songs.
At the concert that I attended last Thursday, while Daigle was singing “You Say,” a few hundred lights appeared in the stands throughout the dark arena. The lights were from the built-in flashlights of the cell phones of the people in the crowd. They were holding up their cell phones and waving them back and forth, just like the people at the Beach Boys concert had done with their lighters at the concert that I attended 46 years ago.
Later in the evening, when Daigle sang another one of her beloved songs, “Rescue,” more than 1,000 cell phone lights appeared throughout the dark arena, waving back and forth. Most of the people in the arena stood during the song and the arena rang out with the voices of people who were singing along with Daigle. It appeared as though more than 75 percent of the crowd were women, many of whom were in their 20s and 30s. Most of the men who were there were with their wives or girlfriends.
The words of the song called out to all the souls in the crowd who had at one time been broken and had felt a sense of hopelessness. There is no doubt in my mind that the words of the song that Daigle wrote and sang that night came from the Holy Spirit. Here’s the first part of the song:
You are not hidden
There’s never been a moment
You were forgotten
You are not hopeless
Though you have been broken
Your innocence stolen
I hear you whisper underneath your breath
I hear your SOS, your SOS
I will send out an army
To find you in the middle of the darkest night
I will rescue you
In the row where I was sitting, to my right, there were three young women who were in their 20s. All three of them stood up and sang every word of the song with Daigle. I looked at them and the expressions on their faces and their hand gestures showed that they were completely absorbed in the message that was being conveyed.
When the song ended, there was thunderous applause and a roar of approval from the voices of everyone who identified with the message that was conveyed in the song, a message that said that regardless of who they were or where they were at in their lives, the God who created them was always there to rescue and protect them.
At the end of the concert, I felt a great sense of hope for our country. With all the evil that is on display in our neighborhoods, schools, institutions, government, and the internet, it’s easy to lose hope. But on Thursday night, when I saw the love that all the people who were in attendance at the concert had for God, I couldn’t help but think that there are still millions of people in our country who feel and believe the same way. It is those people who will see to it that a new day will dawn in America and there will be a rebirth of Christianity, which will grow and mature to the point when we will, once again, become one nation under God.
It may take years, but it is my sincere belief that the Holy Spirit is working through an army of believing, faithful, resilient, bold, courageous, Christians who will see to it that our country is not destroyed but will once again flourish as a Christian Nation.