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I’ve been a fan of the pop/rock group the Newsboys for nearly 15 years. During that time period there have been a few lineup changes but none quite as important as the latest one.
Frontman, Peter Furler, the only original band member remaining, is stepping down as lead singer. Taking his place will be Michael Tait. Most recently a solo artist and previously a member of the vocal group dcTalk, Tait will certainly take some getting used to for long time Newsboys fans.
It was just about two years ago when bassist Phil Joel left the band and was replaced in concerts by programmed bass rhythms. I’m not sure if Joel should feel honored that they couldn’t find anyone to replace him, or insulted that he was replaced by a computer. Joel’s absence left a pretty large hole in the form of some really great backing vocals which the other members were never really able to duplicate.
Now Peter Furler has decided to hang up his touring boots and be a studio only band member with occasional stage appearances. I can respect wanting to stay at home with your family after 20 years of touring but I have to wonder what is in it for the other band members? Furler intends to stay at home and collects royalties from the songs he writes while the others spend several months a year on the road doing the hard work of the music business. I should note though that Furler’s excellent songwriting is what has fueled much of the band’s success.
To me, the timing of this decision just feels all wrong. The band is in the middle of a tour, which fans have already bought tickets to, and now they are going to be getting quite a different concert than they expected. Tait has a much different vocal style and stage persona than Furler. I saw Tait in concert a couple years ago and walked out halfway through. He’s not bad, he’s just not interesting on stage. Also, if Tait was able to successfully fill concert venues on his own, then he wouldn’t be looking for a job as another band’s lead singer. I’m just not sure what he brings to the table.
The Newsboys have a new album that is releasing on May 5th entitled, In The Hands of God. Furler sings every song on the album. Again, the timing of all of this just feels wrong. Why do this now? Why not wait until the album is released? Or better yet they could re-record a couple of the vocal tracks with Tait singing lead so that he could be introduced to the fans. With Tait being absent from this new album it will likely be a full two years before anything is recorded in the studio with Tait’s vocals.
All of this makes me wonder if this is the beginning of a fast downward spiral for the Newsboys or if fans can expect several years of mediocre albums and tours before the end finally comes. I hope that neither situation is the case. I hope that somehow they can pull this off in a way that will be enjoyable for the fans but I think it will be a tough sell.