Mike Rimmer went to meet rock praise band ONEHUNDREDHOURS while they were on the road as part of Daniel Bedingfield's national tour.
When a band is on tour they can cram quite a lot into 24 hours, if they choose to. In the case of onehundrehours on the road with Daniel Bedingfield, everyone has their own way of dealing with life on the road. In the car park behind the National Indoor Arena, their tour bus is parked up and as I arrive it's singer Tori Sheppard who greets me with a smile and invites me on board for a drink. She hands out homemade cakes and biscuits made by the YWAM community back at Harpenden to sustain the band on the tour. Slowly but surely the guys drift in.
More than 5,000 tickets for the NIA have been sold and as Tre and I stand on the stage as the rest of the band sort out their gear for the soundcheck, we look out at the empty seats. Tre confesses that when he runs out here to play tonight, there'll be a mixture of feelings inside. "You're partly thinking that the crowd of 5,000 people are expecting a pop show. And we're about to say, 'Come glorify the Lord with me with rock and roll!' It's like a dare every night! There's that moment when yeah, the cheers go up and the thing begins to happen and just something hits the place. I also know that this isn't just about the band but there's something so much deeper that's happening. That feeling is terrifying and wonderful all at the same time."
After tonight's set, people will come to the band and tell them that they love the vibe and comment about the hope that is contained in their songs. Emails from fans express appreciation that the band are socially aware because they are promoting www.engagehivaids.com but also note, quite simply that they rock!
When it comes to the more surreal aspects of the tour bassist Mark Sampson is encountering some new things. "I think you just have to learn how to respond to it. I remember the first gig in Belfast, this girl just looked at me and shouted out, 'HEY! YOU'RE GORGEOUS!'" Mark unsuccessfully attempts the accent as he demonstrates what happened. "I wasn't prepared for it," he admits, "because it's not the sort of thing that normally happens when you're leading worship at Spring Harvest." Mark blushes slightly as he tells the story. Let's hope it doesn't happen tonight because his fiance is visiting the tour.
Spiritually, the tour has proved to be enlightening to Mark. He explains, "I think I've learnt more on this tour than I ever thought I would. I think that in the Church we feel that the world is such a dark place and that if we go into the world, it's almost a fearful thing. You wonder how to talk to people and communicate? However the reality of it is that God is at work in the world and part of our job as the Church is to point people towards the light and tell people what it is. We haven't had negative comments about the content of our music, our lyrics or our message."
Drummer Paul Baker also slept in this morning after another late night in Brighton. One of the advantages of having the bus is that the band fall asleep as the bus takes them from one city to another. Today he's spent his day hanging out with members of Daniel's band at a music shop and enjoying one of the many Starbucks in Birmingham. There's also been an intriguing open air exhibition of photos called The Earth From The Air which has some inspiring images to soak up. He's enthusiastic about that. He's also been meeting a representative from the drum company that he endorses who hangs out for the gig checking how he's getting on with the kit.
There seems to be steady flow of friends, fellow tour members and family who come and go at the venue and bus. Mark observes, "I think one of the strengths of onehundredhours is that we're a community whose boundaries are very loose so that people can come in. I don't think we've ever had a night after a gig on our bus where there hasn't been a bunch of people visiting. One of Daniel's band even asked me today if he could come and hang out on our bus tonight after the show, because he's loving hanging out with us. We're getting on really well with the crew; we laugh around with them.
After soundcheck, the band have a little bite to eat depending on their own pre-gig habits. In the dressing room before the show, stage clothes are put on, hair is brushed and the final sartorial touches are added. As they are doing so, the band sing a worship song and pray together and then it's time to rock.
For Tre, the day has been busy too but then he has two jobs on the tour. As well as fronting his own band, he has for a number of years looked after Daniel when he has toured. The pair have been friends for years and the mainstream media describe Tre as Daniel's life coach. But in reality it's about friendship and encouragement. Tre explains, "A lot of it is just being with Dan and giving him a place to process things. A lot of it is just us talking and hanging out together, we pray together, look at stuff together, read the Bible and some stuff together. The Psalms are very powerful for both of us and I think we just process junk together. It's a crazy dream. Dan and I have been friends for a long time and to be on tour with one of your best friends in the world and getting to do this together, it's a crazy dream!"
Before the show, Tre and Daniel go to meet one of Daniel's fans who has received injuries similar to those Daniel received in his car crash in New Zealand. Unfortunately the fan didn't recover and is in a wheel chair. For the first time Daniel sees what his future could have been and he is moved by the encounter. During the show Tre dedicates "I Believe In Love" to her. Later she talks to Tre, appreciating the dedication but more than that, she is genuinely moved by the words of the song which express God's love for her. Another connection is made!
Not everything surrounding the tour has gone smoothly and The Sun has run a story about the Bedingfields. Tre explains, "The headline was 'Weird Religious Sect Behind The Bedingfields'. They talked a bit about YWAM, they talked a little bit about Hillsongs. To be honest with you, the worst part of the article was the phrase 'Weird Religious Sect' in the headline. Interestingly the crew and catering and everybody else obviously had the papers out and were all reading it. And the crew were all laughing about it saying, 'Let me get this straight, you help children, you feed orphans, you try to care for hurting people.I'd like to be weird like that!' So in a way, for me it was like a non-story with a blazing headline. Dan and I were not worried about it at all. YWAM came out quite well actually and it told the truth about what we do. We DO believe that there is hope, we DO believe that love can change the world and we DO try to go to the hurting people to change that."
The band may have spent their day in a variety of different ways but when they hit the stage, they are a powerful unified force with a bigger mission. Tre describes what they are trying to do, "We have this little phrase that we use. We talk about 'faith, hope and rock and roll' and it's a cool saying, but the bottom line is, it really IS what we're trying to do. It has that power. Rock and roll can open doors and knock down some people's walls. I feel like every night, we're going out with faith and hope and love and a heart to maybe let Heaven begin to shine down a little bit. And then Dan can really just go with it. That's really what we're here for."
Thinking about tonight's gig, Tre muses, "People come to a gig for a lot of reasons. There's a lot of broken hearts out there. I don't mean that in the cheap, 'broken hearts baby' way. People come broken up and they're just hoping to feel better for a little while. And we know that when Heaven shines down then deeper things happen. We've had a couple of emails from people just describing the rough place that they were in when they came to the gig, from the beginning to the end. From us, all the way through to Dan, they received something. They said, 'I just suddenly looked at life in a different way.' It's hard to explain how that happens. But I feel that's what we're here for. I'm not just here to play rock and roll." He pauses, "I do play in a rock and roll band though, let's make that clear." He pauses and then laughs, "I AM Rick Dangerous!"
It's time for Mr Dangerous and his colleagues to hit the stage. The band do a great job too and once the audience have adjusted to the fact that there's an unknown rock band doing their stuff on stage, the applause grows with each song. During his set, Daniel introduces moments of worship too with the song "Honest Questions" after which he sings two verses of "Create In Me A Pure Heart" a cappella to a hushed audience. It's a beautiful moment as I find myself on my feet with hands raised up, worshipping God.
During the show Tre takes some time to encourage the crowd to buy the distinctive red www.engagehivaids.com wristbands that support the work to put an end to the AIDS crisis in Africa. Daniel speaks about it from stage as well encouraging his fans to make a small step towards making a difference. I notice that the road crew and even the band's bus driver, Steve, are wearing the wristbands. It's just another example of how onehundredhours bring their own unique brand of infectious hope to the world. Whether it's their music, their lifestyle or the cause of the injustices and pain that happen in Africa, they are bringing hope to the world.
It's one o'clock in the morning and I have picked my way through the small crowd of fans hoping to have a chat with Daniel and maybe get a photo and an autograph outside the venue. I am sitting in my favourite curry house in Birmingham when I get a text from Tre. He's been sitting chatting with Daniel, winding down and thinking about the day and now he's made it back to his bunk as the bus leaves for another city. It's been a busy day.
Thinking about the crowd of 5,00 people that came to the gig tonight, I'm struck by this poignant thought. While onehundredhours have been going about their day, the number of Africans who have died today from the AIDS virus is slightly more than the crowd that saw the gig tonight. Across Africa orphans and widows are crying tonight and a band leave town determined to continue making a difference tomorrow.The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.