Jars of Clay: Sticking to Ways of Earlier Success

Talk about your promise keepers. At the John Anson Ford Theatre on Thursday, the band Jars of Clay mostly lived up to the accomplishment of its 1996 debut hit, "Flood," by bridging the Christian pop world with the rock mainstream--without compromising on either front.

Some in the Christian pop world, such as style-shifting DC Talk, sound as if they've taken on popular musical formats merely as an effective vehicle for a message. But this Nashville-based group's attractive blend of shimmering guitars and rich harmonies--slotting somewhere alongside R.E.M., Live and the Wallflowers--seems as much a part of its essence as its Bible references. Earnest and unassuming to a fault (no Bono-esque grandstanding here), singer Dan Haseltine provided an inviting center with his understated presence and restrained, reedy voice, as well as lyrics dealing more with daily concerns than eternity.

It's still very early for the band, though, with this its first headlining tour outside of small clubs and a second album, "Much Afraid," just released. The quartet (supplemented by a bassist and drummer) lacked somewhat in dynamics and power, though that may have been as much a function of the Ford's noise restrictions as the group's natural gentility.

Ultimately the Jars may have to overcome a facet of their own spirituality--which, as outlined by Haseltine in the lone bit of sermonizing, eschews ambition and achievement as sins of pride--to truly reach their artistic potential. As U2 said, pride can be an asset in the name of love.

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