Four-time Grammy-winning Christian pop duo For King and Country fixed their eyes on Old Dominion University’s Chartway Arena in Norfolk, Virginia Saturday, April 22, 2023 for the 31-city “What Are We Waiting For?” Tour Part 2 in support of their 2022 album of the same name. This is Joel and Luke Smallbone’s second Top 10 Billboard 200 charting album, which garnered a Grammy nomination and American Music Award this year, and a GMA Dove Award for Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year in 2022. The new album tackles challenges stemming from the pandemic head-on, offering fans a message of hope and resilience.
I photographed For King and Country for the first time in 2015, and flashbacks of their incredible growth and success since then washed through my mind as I drove through the rain to Norfolk. Severe rain and flash flooding threatened the low-lying coastal areas not far from the ~9,000-capacity arena, and may have kept some fans at home. Two tunnels were closed so after all of the detours, I barely made it to the show in time. Fortunately, the venue was largely unaffected by the major storms moving up the East Coast, and a fantastic crowd showed up for the event.
At showtime, a massive curtain fell revealing an impressive new stage design for this tour featuring five platforms, eight towering screens, four moving light trusses (often forming a diamond as seen in the photos below), along with a myriad of other stunning lights, incredible sound, and production elements overwhelming the senses to provide an unforgettable concert experience. In addition, a diamond-shaped catwalk gave the band some extra room to “run wild.”
The first of 25 songs, “Broken Halos” from the band’s new album, featured spectacular graphics from what looked like their global live stream event “What Are We Waiting For? The Worldwide Special” at sunset in the Mojave Desert March 24, 2022. That global live stream raised approximately $150,000 for Ukrainian refugees in partnership with Convoy of Hope and won a GMA Dove Award for “Long Form Video of the Year.”
The next song was a fan favorite, “Fix My Eyes” which started with a bang of confetti streamers and exploded from there with a percussion-heavy sound and dynamic performances by all on stage while the audience sang along with every word. “Fine Fine Life” had the duo strolling through the aisles high-fiving fans.
“God Only Knows” was a collaboration with Dolly Parton and it was amazing to see her on the enormous screens during the show. This song won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance / Song in 2020 and became a hit across both country and Christian music genres.
The popular song “Priceless” graced the setlist, of course, and is about the value of women and the importance of treating them with respect and honor. More importantly, it stresses how young women need to realize their true worth and inner beauty. It inspired a 2016 movie of the same name starring Joel Smallbone. The movie addressed human trafficking and explored themes of redemption, hope, and the value of human life.
The night of this concert was the Smallbones’ Mum’s birthday and she was in attendance, so her sons had the whole arena sing Happy Birthday to her, of course. Speaking of Mum (author Helen Smallbone), Joel and Luke also revealed exciting news. They are currently finishing another movie “Unsung Hero” (also a For King and Country song), based on her life and the immigration of the Smallbone family from Sydney, Australia to Nashville, Tennessee in 1991. Joel plays the part of his father, David.
My favorite For King and Country song of the night was “Together,” which was a pandemic collaboration with Tori Kelly, Kirk Franklin and around 2000 people sharing their stories about tragedy and triumph. According to the duo, the songwriting process started before the pandemic, but as the world shut down, it became clear that the song needed to be finished and released to help bring people together during a time of civil unrest and global uncertainty. The most striking part of the music video is at the end when the four singers pull aside black backdrops to reveal they had recorded it in their homes separately. (See video below.)
During Christian concerts, most artists address recent tragedy or social unrest often praying for all involved. This has always been a unifying factor happening nearly every night in our country, but is rarely reported in the media. At the show, Luke recounted his personal connection to the recent mass shooting at Covenant School in Nashville where he used to play basketball, and acknowledged the difficulty of comprehending the tragedy. He then sang “Benediction,” offering words of comfort.
The whole band then joined him on the catwalk for fan favorite, “Proof of Your Love” from sophomore album “Crave.” At the song’s crescendo, Joel jumped off the piano which has always been my favorite moment of their shows (see gallery below). This song has nearly 32 million views on YouTube.
The finale song, “Joy,” complete with another burst of confetti, energized the crowd and had them dancing in the aisles. The graphics and lighting was stunning, of course.
Joel and Luke sang suspended from the ceiling in “floating elevators” for “Relate” at the beginning of Set 2, then for the encore song, “The Little Drummer Boy (The Trapp Family Singers Cover)” which is depicted below. The latter is so popular, fans would nearly riot if it wasn’t included in the setlist year-round. This song is perfect for and was perfectly performed by this drum-centric band.
Overall, For King and Country’s What Are We Waiting For? Tour is a high-energy, visually stunning, emotionally charged, and an immersive concert experience that blends music, faith, and storytelling to create a unique and unforgettable show for fans. With their powerful vocals, engaging stage presence, and meaningful lyrics, they inspire the listener to embrace their faith, overcome struggles, and find hope and healing in their lives. This was the 15th time I’ve photographed the band in the last 8 years (mainly because of their popularity at festivals), and it was by far their best tour, yet.
Joel Smallbone (lead vocals, harmonium, keys +)
Luke Smallbone (lead vocals, drums +)
Vince DiCarlo (guitar, cello, bass +)
Garrett P. Tyler (drums +)
Chris Karabelas (drums +)
Daniel Waterbury (guitar +)
Danny Lopez (keys, guitar +)
Gabe Baker (cello, guitar +)
Set 1 –
1.) Broken Halos
2.) Fix My Eyes
3.) Fight On, Fighter
4.) Run Wild
5.) Fine Fine Life
6.) Love Me Like I Am
9.) Unsung Hero
11.) Burn the Ships
12.) Together (feat. Kirk Franklin & Tori Kelly)
Set 2 –
15.) Unity (feat. Dante Bowe)
16.) What Are We Waiting For?
17.) Cheering You On
18.) For God Is With Us
21.) The Proof of Your Love
22.) Busted Heart (Hold On to Me)
23.) God Only Knows (feat. Dolly Parton)
25.) The Little Drummer Boy (The Trapp Family Singers Cover)
Catch For King and Country’s live show and check them out at the links below.
Annette Holloway is a music, promo, portrait, and event photographer. Live concert photography and band/artist photoshoots occupy much of her time. Her work has been published on numerous media outlets including Billboard, Pollstar, NBC News, Getty Images, Forbes, HM Magazine, ICON Sportswire, Loudwire, CCM Magazine, and many more. Before diving into photography full time, she was a NASA software engineer, webmaster, church youth leader, and robotics mentor. For more information about her photography, visit AnnetteHolloway.com.