So it was 44 A.D. and the Artist Formerly Known as Saul had been jamming out in Jerusalem for over a decade. He was getting plenty of air time in the synagogues and lots of love on the K-LOVE affiliates, but Pastor Paul – in the immortal words of Billy Ray Cyrus – had dreams too big for that town and he had to give them a shot. He got that shot in the spring when he was at this super intense prayer sesh up in Antioch. The elders were looking for volunteers to take The Gospel to the heathens and hookers over in Galatia, and Paul immediately jumped at the chance. His buddy Barnabas signed on as well, and – BOOM - SALVATION: The World Tour was underway.
As the first headliners in recorded history, Paul and Barnabas made quite the pair. Both had previous touring experience – Paul with his short-lived country trio, “Peter, Paul, and Mary,” and Barnabas with a Pentecost-themed folk collective called “The Flaming Lips” – and both could work a crowd like nobody’s business. They were the Simon and Garfunkel of their day. Paul wrote the sermons and did the interviews. Barnabas told the jokes and burned the incense.
After playing a few warm-up gigs in backwater towns like Seleucia and Salamis, Paul and Bro-nabas did a monster 2-hour set in Paphos. They brought it hot and heavy that night, and everyone, including the mayor, was way into their scene. But then this loud-mouth magician showed up and started heckling. At one point he got up on stage and started repeating everything Paul and Barnabas said but in a voice like he was retarded. After about 15 seconds of this, Paul grabbed the mic back and told the guy that he was the spawn of Satan and was probably the worst thing to happen to the world since people started putting fruit in beer. Then he struck the dude blind. People in Paphos didn’t interrupt sermons much after that.
Paul and B-nabs peaced out of Paphos and headed across the water to Pisidia where they were scheduled to play an afternoon show at the Pisidia City Limits music festival. When the pair got to Pisidia, they were met by the biggest crowd they’d seen all tour. Turns out the video of Paul trashing the heckler in Paphos had gone viral and, as a result, they were getting mad respect from the DC Talk demographic. Paul knew that it was time to blow the lid off this tour.
He grabbed a mic and started freestyle-rapping the entire the history of Israel. He talked about the time the Hebrews got lost in the desert for 40 years. He talked about how much King Saul sucked and how much King David rocked, and he talked about Jesus – how he was God’s kid and how he could forgive their sins and all that other stuff that the people of Pisidia (aka Pissers) would’ve known had they been watching the Israeli news. It was a lot like Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” except it lasted five hours and made no mention of foreign debts, homeless vets, AIDS, crack, or Bernie Goetz.
Paul-A-Palooza had hit the bigtime.
The festival organizers had no choice but to add an encore performance the following weekend. The entire city came out for that second show and the two blew their faces off once again with Divinely-inspired truth rarely seen this side of Fox News. A few people passed out. A couple more threw up. This one paralyzed dude started walking around like he was freaking John Locke from LOST. It was intense.
Everyone in Pisidia was way into Paul and Barney’s deal. Everyone except the Jews that is. The Jews had been waiting all day to see a show on another stage (probably Matisyahu) and they were pissed at the Sermonizing Superstars from Antioch for dominating the festival. They started giving Barnabas crap for his “Jew-fro” and a few of them started carrying on when Paul accidentally said “genitals” instead of “Gentiles.” Real amateur stuff.
Well, as the people in Paphos could have told them, Paul and The Barn Burner didn’t take kindly to being bagged on. “Listen schmucks,” said Paul. “We tried playing gigs in Israel and none of you came out. So here we are, hanging out in Asia Minor where people recognize the truth when it’s blasted into their earholes, which is more than I can say for you schlemiels.”
This did two things: it made the Minor Asians love Paul and Bro-nabas more than ever. (The merch booth sold out of “You Say Gentile Like It’s A Bad Thing” T-Shirts in less than five minutes.) And it pissed the Jews off something awful.
And that was the story for the rest of the tour. Everywhere PB & J (Paul, Barnabas and Jesus) went from that point forward they were met by adoring throngs of Gentiles and irate mobs of Jews. One day they’d be in Lystra with people bowing before them like they were the second coming of John Lennon. The next they’d be in Iconium dodging a barrage of beer bottles like they were some Nickelback cover band.
By the time they got to Derbe both Paul and Barnabas were exhausted (aka beaten to within an inch of their lives). They decided to call it quits. So they turned around and retraced their steps, playing return shows in every synagogue along the way. By the time they got back to Antioch, they’d been on the road for two years.
You hear that, Dave Matthews? A freakin 24-month tour! Put that in your joint and toke it!