Having played nearly 300 concerts since the release of their self-titled album in 1995, one performance tops all others for Jars of Clay: a pop radio festival.
At that concert in Boston, the Christian rock band followed Joan Osborne and opened for Seal.
"It was neat to play kind of in the middle of such really big performers that we respect, and to be included in that whole event was an honor for us," said keyboardist Charlie Lowell.
Jars of Clay is not your typical Christian band. Since the 1995 debut of its CD, the group caused waves in the music industry by playing God rock that has been received well on secular radio
On Saturday, the quartet (whose name comes from 2 Corinthians 4:7) performs at the Imperial Theatre. The show will feature tunes from the self-titled release and new songs the band expects to record in early 1997.
One new tune is Blame, written by vocalist Dan Haseltine.
"It's kind of a song saying, `What's the point of putting the effort into what we're doing if there's not love in our hearts when we do it?" Mr. Lowell said. "If we don't love what we're doing and if we're not doing it with love, is it really worth it for us to do.
The question is one members struggled with during a tiresome summer and fall tour that led to rumors of a breakup.
The rumors, band members say, are untrue.
Instead, they've tried to re-evaluate why they're performing and making music - to let people know about God's love and how Christians can portray it. That goal is the focus of most of their lyrics, such as the tunes Love Song For A Savior, He and Like A Child.
It's an odd focus for a group once described as an "interesting blend of music, a cross between Pearl Jam, Toad the Wet Sprocket and Janet Jackson."
The group formed in 1993 when Mr. Lowell, Mr. Haseltine and bassist Steve Mason met at Illinois' Greenville College. They were later joined by guitarist Matt Odmark in the studio.
With their acoustic, alternative Christian pop, Jars joined DC Talk and Newsboys in gaining secular as well as Christian audiences. Their fans, can with the group via their Internet site (email@example.com), have named themselves "Potheads," and Jars' music can be heard on a new Coke commercial on radio.
Their self-titled album earned a 1995 Grammy nomination, and the chart-topping song, Flood, was produced by Adrian Belew, who worked with '70s progressive rock giants David Bowie and King Crimson.
Jars' new release will have a bit more electric guitar, but the sound will be similar to their debut, Mr. Lowell said.
Like many quick-to-stardom bands, such as Columbia-based Hootie and the Blowfish, the guys in Jars created the songs on their debut while in college, writing in a pressure-free environment for themselves, friends and family.
The pressure is on for their sophomore effort.
"So now (people are saying), `You know, you've got a platinum record, and what are you going to say to the world that's going to buy your next album?"' Mr. Lowell said.
The Jars hope that by writing for themselves they'll continue to connect with listeners.
"I think that's where we hope we'll be able to write from and to just continue searching what's going on in our hearts and what we're feeling and putting that into words," he said. "And hopefully, different people, whether Christians or non-Christians, can hear a song and take something from it."
The group also has drawn criticism from Christians allowing secular groups to open their concerts.
"I don't think we have an agenda to do that, and it's kind of happened. The key word is, bridge, and that's what's happening, even between Christianity and the culture, I think," Mr. Lowell said. "We would love to be - although it's quite a responsibility and a pressure - some form of role model or representative of Christianity within our culture."
If that's the criticism, they'll take the blame.
Who: Jars of Clay, with opening act, Vigilantes of Love
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Imperial Theatre, 745 Broad St.
How much: $12 in advance and $14 at the door
To hear Jars of Clay, call INFOLINE at 442-4444 and press 8101. You'll hear part of the song, Flood, from the self-titled CD.