Sonic diversity is uncommon these days. A generation or two ago, radio playlists were filled with a variety of songs. But this is an era in which EPs are released with a single and four songs that sound like the featured track.
And then there is Tenth Avenue North’s “Decade the Halls” album and tour. The concept, Christmas songs spanning the 1920s through the present, sounds like it comes from another planet. A song from each style and decade from the past century is delivered.
“What we are presenting is certainly different,” guitarist Jeff Owen said by phone from Los Angeles. “Not many groups are stepping back to the ’20s, but we love it. When we go back that far during the show, we break out this vintage Victrola. It might sound hokey but it’s fun, old-school stuff.”
“Decade the Halls” is designed to be fun. It’s an aural and visual extravaganza, swinging through the Paramount Theatre in Cedar Rapids on Saturday night (12/8). In keeping with the theme, the musicians — which also include charismatic vocalist-guitarist Mike Donehey, bassist Ruben Suarez and keyboardist Brendon Shirley — sport a different outfit with each song.
“It’s a blast since it’s so theatrical,” Owen said. “It’s not completely foreign to me. I used to be in a show choir in high school in Lincoln, Nebraska. The memories come flooding back. It’s cool. I love how this is so left of center for us.”
The contemporary Christian act engages the crowd during its energetic set.
“The Christmas show is looser than our regular show,” Owen said. “We connect even more so with the audience. The cool thing is that when we look out at the fans, the people out there run the gamut. Every age group is represented.”
The show has a musical era for everyone.
“I don’t think there is anyone out there, who predates the ’20s,” Owen said. “There are a lot of people that are into ’80s and ’90s music. My favorite song to play is ‘Go Tell It on the Mountain.’ That’s from the ’80s. We do some songs in a ’60s Motown kind of style, and some songs in a rock ‘n’ roll Joe Cocker kind of ’70s thing. It’s a blast. People love nostalgia. Who can blame anyone for loving nostalgia? We love going back to songs that were recorded well before our time.”
They also toss in contemporary twists.
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“We update ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ with an EDM (electronic dance music) spin,” Owen said. “That surprises a lot of people, but I love how it challenges us. We can do things in ‘Decade the Halls’ that we can’t do when we’re just out as Tenth Avenue North. It’s so refreshing.”
Since Tenth Avenue North’s “Decade the Halls” album was released in 2017 as Volume 1, will there be a follow-up?
“I guess there has to be another volume,” Owen said. “I guess it would be misleading if we didn’t come up with another ‘Decade the Halls’ release. We’ll definitely make another ‘Decade the Halls’ album. That’s certainly on our list of things to do.”
The next “Decade” project will have to wait, since Tenth Avenue North will return to the studio to record a contemporary Christian album in January.
“The next one won’t be a Christmas album,” Owen said. “We’re overdue for a regular album. But we’re not thinking about the next studio release. It’s all about ‘Decade the Halls’ songs and this tour. For us, all of these Christmas songs are so fresh since we haven’t heard them in 11 months. I think that’s the case for everyone. We only have one month of Christmas songs. We may as well just dive in and revel in it.”
WHAT: Tenth Avenue North: “Decade the Halls”
WHERE: Paramount Theatre, 123 Third Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids
WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday (12/8)
TICKETS: $23 to $78 VIP, Paramount Ticket Office, (319) 366.-8203 or Paramounttheatrecr.com
ARTIST’S WEBSITE: Tenthavenuenorth.com