Chris Tomlin in Portland, OR

Concert Review: Chris Tomlin Descends on Portland With a Shout

When I get a text from my wife asking if I want to attend a concert, I pay attention.

After years of dragging her to live shows – and to this day she still brings up Adam Ant, I still bring up the Psychedelic Furs/The Church concert where she spent time playing on her cell phone and last year’s three hour Smashing Pumpkins show didn’t help one iota either – her interest in attending anything vanished a long time ago.

So, with Chris Tomlin bringing his Holy Roar tour to the Moda Center on Sunday in Portland she finally found a reason to get out.

And thank God for that.

The nearly 2 ½ hour show featured 19 songs along with a few informative breaks highlighting some causes and passions of Tomlin’s. You will know immediately at the start Chris Tomlin doesn’t exactly follow your regular concert format. Woe to you who decide to show up later to skip the opening bands.


Chris Tomlin doesn’t have opening acts instead his support plays alongside him.

Chris Tomlin in Portland for Holy Roar tour.
Chris Tomlin

Yes, I made it on time despite my wife’s desire to leave our dog alone for as little time as possible. A little bit ironic that she wanted to go but I was the one trying to get there at the start. Tomlin took the stage just 10 minutes after show time and quickly dived into his catalogue of hits starting with “Holy Roar” and “God’s Great dance Floor.” Tauren Wells one of the “opening acts” sang “When We Pray” then gave the floor back to Tomlin for “Praise Him Forever.”

But Wells got his “opener” status a few songs later as Tomlin left the stage and handed the reigns to Wells who sang his number “Known,” a beautifully performed “Hills and Valleys” while on piano and finally a pretty hard-edged and rocking “Undefeated” before exiting stage right.

Tomlin returned with a medley featuring the first song he ever wrote “We Fall Down” and then took a moment to introduce a video that explained his passion for helping kids in foster care leaving the well-attended Moda Center audience some numbers to mull over – 400,000 kids in foster care in the United States.

Tauren Wells on piano as part of Chris Tomlin Holy Roar tour
Tauren Wells on Piano

The band returned as another “opening act” Pat Barrett, a rising star in Christian music who contributed on guitar for much of the evening, singing “God is So Good” then Tomlin took the mic back with great vocal work on “The Roar” and I suppose it should be of no surprise that a man of deep faith brought his home church pastor out on tour as Darren Whitehead delivered nothing less than a sermon. Yes, an actual sermon but hardly what you’d expect.

Quite funny and rather self-deprecating Whitehead used his time on stage to discuss how the  Holy Roar tour came about (its roots started with Tomlin tuning out one of his messages) with the seven traditional Biblical text (Hebrew/Greek) words for “praise.” Initially, this sidebar interrupted the flow of the show a bit but the Australian native was so entertaining you kind of forgot you were at a concert.

But on with the show as Tomlin returned with the final six songs without further interruption which included a fantastic “Whom Shall I Fear (God of Angel Armies),” a stirring “Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone),” the Barrett penned “Good Good Father” and the set closer “Awesome Is the Lord Most High” that got everyone on their feet (most were already).

Chris Tomlin on tour for Holy Roar
Chris Tomlin brought his Holy Roar tour to the Moda Center in Portland, OR

If you have attended a modern church service in the last 20 years (i.e. those houses that abandoned the old world hymns my mother is so fond of and embraced the sometimes ear busting decibel rock concert) than you have heard a Chris Tomlin song or three. His fingerprints appear all over these  21st Century hymns that entice the flock to stand and shout rather than the structured model of stand up, sing this, sit down, read that, traditional worship service. In fact, the arrangement for the entire evening closely resembled a Sunday morning service though this was a Sunday evening service on steroids.

Admittedly, these songs don’t translate all that personally for me when listening at home. But live? Something else. Some music just works best in a live format when done well and Chris Tomlin does it quite well. He’s got a great voice, a contagious energy, he’s happy and brings a cohesive band to  back him along with a full stage set-up with lights, video screen backdrops and some confetti. He’s found his calling and enjoys every minute of it.

People not of the Christian faith need not fear a Chris Tomlin show. It’s a rock concert no doubt, he doesn’t hide where he stands (but does anyone else?), and he might do things a bit different and off-the-cuff but that’s the beauty of it all. It’s different but not that different. You also might find a bit more substance in this show than others. Seriously, when was the last time a concert made you reflect a little on life?

If all church services functioned like a Chris Tomlin concert I would think things might be a whole lot different in this world.

Chris Tomlin Portland Setlist:

  1. Holy Roar
  2. God’s Great dance Floor
  3. When We Pray (Wells)
  4. Praise Him Forever
  5. Marvelous Light
  6. Our God
  7. Known (Wells)
  8. Hills and Valleys (Wells)
  9. Undefeated (Wells)
  10. We Fall Down / Here I am to Worship
  11. Nobody Loves Me Like You
  12. God is So Good (Pat Barrett)
  13. The Roar
  14. How Great is Our God
  15. Whom Shall I Fear (God of Angel Armies)
  16. Build My Life (Barrett)
  17. Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)
  18. Good Good Father
  19. Awesome Is the Lord Most High