Photo and Story by Scott A. Smith
Tobymac’s sonic gumbo of rock, funk, old-school R&B and more flowed like musical honey on Dec. 12 in Tulsa, Okla.
The former DC Talk member and five-time Grammy Award winner brought his Hits Deep Tour to Tulsa’s BOK Center, and the set list stood exactly as promised — it was crammed to the gills with Toby’s radio staples and equally favored LP cuts. Guitarist Tim Rosenau’s staccato, clean-toned intro to the bouncy “Me Without You” later gave way to crunchy, glorious hard-rock distortion on “Eye On It,” “Tonight” and “Gone.”
Throughout Toby’s 80-minute set, Toddiefunk slapped, tapped and thumped what sounded like brand-new strings on his bass, and drummer Brian Haley kept the rhythms assertive and adventurous. “Steal My Show,” “Lose Myself” and “Speak Life,” all terrific tracks from Toby’s No. 1 album from 2012, “Eye On It,” gushed with new-found confidence and purpose on the Tulsa stage. One could almost hear the heavy, approving exhales of Toby’s connected fans as the set would build emotionally with each passing song.
“City on Our Knees” arrived late — but was perfectly placed — in the Tulsa set, with the melodic, meditative sounds of guitar, bass and keyboards gliding underneath Toby’s impeccable, top-of-his-range vocals. The cheerleading “Get Back Up” was equally effective, providing a bold musical arrangement and a vocal hook one could hum forever.
Also outstanding was “In the Light,” the eternal crowd favorite from Toby’s DC Talk days and, simply put, one of the greatest songs from the 1990s. “In the Light” magically hit a new high point during the concert, with Rosenau’s acoustic, reggae-esque playing blending perfectly with the backing vocals of Byron Chambers and Nirva Dorsaint Ready.
In between songs, Toby shared stories about his wife and children and his faith, and he addressed the trappings of domestic abuse.
“Ladies, if that man disrespects you, then kick him to the curb,” he said. “And if you’re married, then gently nudge him to the curb, and then wait three hours to open the front door for him.”
The audience immediately laughed before Toby grinned and glanced down at the stage.
“I do know that when my wife and I disagree, there are times when she’s in one side of the house, and I’m in the other side of the house,” he said. “Then she comes over on her hands and knees.”
Many audience members then raised their eyebrows and gave each other puzzled glances.
“She says, ‘Toby, you come out from under that bed right now and you fight like a man!” Toby playfully shouted before a volcanic wave of laughter came from the audience. “But seriously, don’t let anyone disrespect you.”
Also appearing at the feel-good concert were Brandon Heath, Capital Kings, Jamie Grace, Chris August, Colton Dixon and a show-stopping Mandisa. Reaching deep down into herself, the eternally grinning Mandisa won every heart in the darkened arena when she belted out an on-fire take of the new radio hit “Overcomer.” The song, like the entire three-hour concert, served as an uplifting reprieve for fans who are growing increasingly tired and frustrated from the world’s daily onslaught of public shootings, car bombings and political back-biting.