Hey y’all, happy new year! Wait, is it still socially acceptable to say that? January’s almost over! Anyway, it’s been a minute since I did a concert recap, but I’ve got a brief one for you, plus an artist on the rise that you’ll want to be on the lookout for: Rich Tolbert, Jr. Let’s rewind it back to Monday.
Monday night, I attended ANWA Live! DC, an extension of an effort implemented by the All Nations Worship Assembly, a network of churches that seeks to plant sanctuaries all over the nation. The initiative is spearheaded by the senior pastor of All Nations Headquarters in Chicago, IL, Apostle Dr. Matthew L. Stevenson III. I entered the Columbia Heights Education Center anticipating a mighty move of God, and I got exactly what I came for. Benita Jones set the pace for the evening with soaring vocals and fresh fire. Todd Dulaney took us “Back To The Book” (that’s his new EP, available for pre-order as of yesterday) with a soul-stirring rendition of Psalm 23, and Apostle Matthew Stevenson followed up with a powerful prophetic flow. Finally, JJ Hairston took us home with his worship staple, “You Deserve It”—but the highlight of the night for me was Rich Tolbert, Jr.
|Rich Tolbert, Jr. / Image source: Singersroom
I’ve been singing Rich’s anthem, “Never Be Defeated” over myself since summer 2019, when I saw him at City of Praise’s Planted conference with Campfire Movement. I didn’t record his performance of the song then because I was deep in worship, but something in my spirit said, This song will shake the nation. I followed him on Instagram the next day, sensing that it would only be a matter of time before his career really took off—and I was right. This was around the time that JJ Hairston’s “Miracle Worker” album was released, and Rich is featured on the title track as both singer and songwriter. As “Miracle Worker” began to buzz, “Never Be Defeated” and “Isn’t He Beautiful?” another of Rich’s songs that has not yet been released, started to gain traction.
Ever since Planted, I told myself I was going to make it my business to see Rich live again. I wanted to get another chance to fully appreciate the song that has been the soundtrack of my life for the past six months, so when I heard that he’d be in DC for ANWA Live!, I jumped at the opportunity to go (AND it was free!). Rich’s sound is unlike anything I’ve heard before. It’s hard to put into words, but I think the best way to describe it is...the sound of freedom. There’s an undignified quality in it, a boldness that is absolutely electrifying. It set something off in me!
I’ve decided that “Never Be Defeated” will be my stomp-on-the-devil’s-head song for 2020. The song itself is almost 19 minutes long (including the reprise) but I play it on loop tirelessly. Whenever I sing it, it makes me feel empowered. It reminds me Who’s in control, Who holds the future.
And because God is the greatest power, / We shall never, never be defeated. Because the greatest power lives in me, I have the power to declare a thing, and it shall be so:
I SHALL rise!
I SHALL be!
I SHALL go in VICTORY!
No weapon formed against me
Will EVER overtake me (emphasis mine)!
The declaration is simple, but it makes my spirit leap. And this next part is where I come thisclose to shouting:
The devil is a liar, God is exalted / Never be defeated, never be defeated. Rich repeats this over and over until I believe it—and everybody around me does, too. I play this aloud in my house like, “The devil IS a liar! We all gon’ catch this Holy Ghost fire!” It’s literally impossible to sit still while listening to this song. And don’t even think about playing it while driving (unless you’ve got time to pull over, because ready or not, here comes the anointing)! And if you like “Never Be Defeated,” you’ll love what’s coming next in Rich’s arsenal. As I mentioned earlier, the studio version of “Isn’t He Beautiful?”, which I think is his next single, isn’t even available for purchase yet, and it’s already taking churches across the country by storm.
God is a “Miracle Worker,” and in Him, we’ll “Never Be Defeated.” As we marvel at His magnificent works and unceasing victories, we’ll behold His face and say “Isn’t He Beautiful?” Stay tuned, because God is just getting started with Rich Tolbert, Jr. He’s definitely one to watch in 2020 and beyond, and I personally can’t wait to hear what God uses him to say next.
Check out Rich's performance of "Never Be Defeated" at ANWA Live! DC below: