Not many bands can claim the staying power the Newsboys have enjoyed for more than 25 years.
Duncan Phillips, an Australia native who joined the Christian rock-pop group in 1993, has been holding forth on drums through several lineup changes during that time.
The most notable departures from the band were lead vocalists Peter Furler in 2009 and, before him, John James in 1997, as well as bass guitar player Phil Joel in 2006.
The biggest single addition? That would be current lead singer Michael Tait, a former solo artist and dc Talk member, who joined the band when Furler left in 2009.
The comings and goings of lead singers and band members would be enough to stop many groups in their tracks, but not the Newsboys.
This is a band that hasn’t missed a beat and has managed to pull off the rare trick of maintaining a loyal fan base that was with the group in the 1990s and early 2000s, while adding a new crop of young folks who now turn out in droves to its concerts.
The Newsboys will bring their “Big Church Night Out!” tour to Topeka with a show at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 28, at the Kansas Expocentre, S.W. 19th and Topeka Boulevard.
Joining the Newboys for the show will be several other top-flight acts, including Sidewalk Prophets, 7eventh Time Down, Blanca, Derek Minor, Brock Gill, Adam Agee and Jamison Strain.
In a recent phone interview from Wilmore, Ky., where the Newsboys were planning to wrap up their summer festival schedule, Phillips remarked about how the band has stayed relevant for so long.
“I think being in a band is like a marriage, of sorts,” Phillips said. “I think most of what splits bands up and why bands disband is they can’t get along, or they start writing music that’s the same as the last record.
“I think that’s the temptation sometimes. If you have a big record, you try to get another one out as soon as possible. But I think that’s a big mistake, if the new record sounds like the one that came out before it. As a band, I think we’ve always tried to reinvent ourselves while staying true to who we are.
“Fans’ tastes change over time,” he added. “The only thing that’s sure in this world is change. You’re not changing who you are necessarily, but you’ve got to be aware of what’s going on around you.”
Phillips, 53, noted three of the four Newsboys members — himself, Jody Davis on bass and Jeff Frankenstein on keyboards — have been with the band for around 25 years.
A key has been the willingness and ability of the three not only to adapt to changing musical styles, but also to the strengths of the various lead singers the group has had.
The Newsboys have continued to be among the top groups on Christian radio and on the concert scene, as well.
With Tait as the lead singer, the group has had resounding success in recent years, with songs like “We Believe,” “God’s Not Dead” and “Born Again.”
Phillips said concerts draw upon recent and current songs, but also include some of the tunes the band made famous in its earlier incarnations.
A key to which songs to select for concerts hinges in part on the band’s current direction, every bit as much as the personnel who were in place when the original hits came out.
For instance, Phillips said, the band enjoyed great — almost cult-like — popularity with “quirky” ’90s songs such as “Shine” and “Breakfast.” But those were with Furler leading the way and his vocal talents don’t completely translate to what Tait brings to the table.
So while the group will delve into its considerable musical catalogue, its concerts these days are far from a walk down memory lane, though Phillips stressed “we still absolutely give a nod to what we did.”
He said Newsboys concerts these days attract many people in their 30s and 40s — “We were their band when they were teenagers” — who frequently bring their children to the shows.
But in the past few years, Phillips said he has seen a whole new crop of fans embrace the group. He said the band’s main demographic at this time is the 18-to-25 age range.
“A few years ago, it was 35-plus, but now 18 to 25 is our biggest demographic,” he said. “But saying that, it’s really 3 to 93.”
The key to the band’s continued popularity comes not only from its music, but from the energy its members exude in concerts. Phillips, for one, is a master showman on the drums and insists the fire is still brightly burning every time he takes the stage.
“Well, why not?” he said. “Who gets to do this for as long as I have and still play in arenas? It’s awesome. I feel honored and really blessed that we’re playing big rooms, and people still want to come and see us play.”
Tickets for the “Big Church Night Out!” show are $25 reserved, $45 premium and $100 for the “Ultimate VIP Experience.” Tickets for groups of 10 or more are $18 each and come with two free tickets; and $20 each for a “Friends & Family 4-Pack.”
For more information, visit http://bit.ly/2wMCgDN or call the Kansas Expocentre at (785) 235-1986.
Contact Phil Anderson at (785) 295-1195 or follow live reports @Philreports on Twitter. Like him on Facebook at facebook.com/philreports.tcj/