Unified:Praise (Hillsong & Delirious?) (Delirious.org.uk)
Last modified: 30 Oct 2004
Author: Dave Wood
Date: 30 Oct 2004
Rumours that Delirious? and Hillsong were going to make a combined album together first surfaced back in July 2003 when Delirious? travelled to Sydney to perform at the Hillsong conference. Sixteen months later the outcome of that night is finally revealed. 'Unified:Praise' is the live recording of the 2003 Hillsong conference, in front of 20,000 people at the Sydney SuperDome. The CD contains eleven songs, five from the Hillsong band and six from Delirious?, with a little crossover as the bands shared the stage for a few songs. The DVD version has the same songs, plus a few extras.
Delirious? and Hillsong may seem like a strange combination, and I'll admit to being slightly sceptical about the idea when I first heard about it. But despite that, this album contains much to excite both sets of fans.
When you place the DVD in your player, a square box parcel appears on screen, with "This Way UP" written on it's side. At first this seems a little strange and unrelated, until you consider the title of the CD and DVD: 'Unified:Praise'. Take the initials of the title and you get the word UP. The DVD menu and graphics all play on the 'UP' abbreviation, with the main menu being the inside of an elevator, with the doors shut, complete with annoying elevator music in the background. Along the side of the elevator are the buttons for each 'floor', which are the Menu Options. You are given five options: Play, Songs, Bits, Info, Setup. When you select one of the 'floors', the elevator doors slide open as the option loads.
'Setup' allows you to choose the Audio and Subtitle settings, whilst 'Info' is simply a screen of static text saying: "During Hillsong Conference 2003, Delirious? combined with Darlene Zschech and the Hillsong team to record this project. It was an incredible night, with over 20,000 worshippers packing the Sydney SuperDome, praising God with one Voice". You have to wonder why they bothered to include this screen in the DVD, especially since those exact words are printed on the DVD's back cover.
The 'Bits' option from the Menu is a seven and a half minute behind-the-scenes documentary, containing a montage of video clips and shots from the rehearsals and sound check. It also has snippets of interviews with various people, such as Tim and Stew from Delirious? and Darlene Zschech. The short documentary also shows people talking to camera about planning the joint Hillsong and Delirious? project. We see Martin taking in the scene as the crowd arrives at the venue, and various other clips of backstage events. It's an entertaining piece of film, but with clearly enough footage to make a full hour long documentary is seems a shame that they tried to squeeze it all into such a short effort.
The remaining two options on the DVD menu, 'Play' and 'Songs', take you into the feature presentation. You can choose to 'Play' the entire concert, or skip straight to a specific 'song'.
The first half of the concert has the Hillsong team and Darlene on stage to lead the crowd in several songs. The Sydney SuperDome shows itself to be a top class venue, with a huge sea of people making up the crowd. The main interest for Delirious? fans comes later, when Delirious? take to the stage, but don't be fooled into thinking that 'I Could Sing Of Your Love Forever' is a full-on Delirious? performance. Despite being a Delirious? song it occurs during the Hillsong part of the concert. Martin and Tim join Hillsong and Darlene on stage to perform the track, but it is very much a Hillsong version, sung much slower than Delirious? would normally do so. In fact, listening to this track on the CD you wouldn't even know that Delirious? were involved, until the final minute of the song where Martin finally gets a chance to take over the vocals from Darlene.
Through out the concert the Hillsong Choir, consisting of perhaps fifty singers all dressed in black, stand in a raised section at the back of the stage. They join in with the songs at various points, providing an added depth to the music. As 'I Could Sing' nears an end, they join in behind Martin and Darlene. On the tracklisting for both the CD and DVD it lists the song as "I Could Sing Of Your Love Forever / God's Romance". This is slightly misleading, as in fact the song "God's Romance" doesn't appear in it's entirety, it's just one repeated line "Holy Is The Lord" taken from "God's Romance" that is sung at the end of "I Could Sing".
A few tracks later, the Delirious? concert starts properly as they appear on stage through the dim blue light to launch into a staggering ten minute rendition of 'Did You Feel The Mountains Tremble?'. Announcing the song Martin calls out ""All around the world the mountains are still trembling", and then the lights and guitars kick in to full effect. For a live album you'd expect to hear a bit more of the crowd, but for most of the time all you can hear in the background is the Hillsong Choir accompanying Delirious? Whilst this sounds good, it does loose some of the live 'feel' of the concert. Stu excels with his guitar and as the song stretches on Martin leads the crowd into "Dance in the river".
From here on, the CD and DVD differ slightly. Next up for the DVD is the added bonus of 'My Glorious', a song which doesn't appear on the CD at all. Whilst the remaining songs on the CD and DVD are the same, the track order differs for some strange reason. On the DVD 'My Glorious' starts with some arty camera work, a quick sequence of changing shots, blurring in and out of focus, all perfectly synchronised with the music. As this is the only song using this type of effect it seems out of keeping with the rest of the DVD, but it does work well for 'My Glorious'. The stage is flooded with smoke and lights, and a fabulous StuG guitar solo make this one of the highlights of the DVD. Martin has the crowd singing "Glory, Glory, Send Your Glory" as the song nears an end.
Next on the DVD is 'Majesty', and again the crowd are very low in the sound mix. For the most part, the choir drowns out any singing from the crowd, but admittedly the choir does sound superb. Clearly Delirious? thought so to, as they included the Hillsong choir singing this very song on their 'World Service' album. The bass rings out very clearly and Martin's singing is confident through out. The wide angled shots give a great view of the impressive arena with its high ceiling and large capacity. Close up shots of the crowd singing with hands raised add to the spine-tingling atmosphere.
'What A Friend I've Found' is next, with Darlene joining Martin on stage. The songs starts quietly with an acoustic feel as Martin sings and plays his guitar and Darlene sings the second verse. The addition of a female voice complimenting well with Martin's own vocals. Gradually the drums and guitars join in as the song starts to build momentum, and finally the choir joins in too. Another nice feature of the DVD is that during 'What A Friend' you have the choice of choosing from any one of eight different camera angles. Taking on the role of 'director' yourself can be fun as you choose from cameras at the front, side, back, above on a crane, or in the crowd. Some of the stage cameras reveal technicians crawling around stage, and the cameraman's feet, adding to the entertainment!
The performance of 'Rain Down' is absolutely stunning, easily the best track on the album. Martin puts down his guitar to give himself the freedom to jump around and dance across the stage. The entire crowd seem to join him in jumping in time to the song. The band's performance is perfect, with guitars, bass, drums and keyboard all mixed together supremely, making an amazing blend of music. Another strange difference between the CD and DVD is that the CD version of 'Rain Down' includes the "Glory, Glory, Send Your Glory" ending that appeared on the DVD version of 'My Glorious'.
Both CD and DVD end with 'History Maker', where finally the crowd are audible in the mix, and a truly live feeling is created. The song is an excellent finale to the concert, with Martin calling his "fellow History Makers" onto stage half way through. The Hillsong band and Darlene come back to make the stage very crowded indeed. With an unimaginable number of guitarists now on stage, the song continues. Speaking to the crowd, Martin sounds emotional as he quotes from Psalm 24. The credits role on the DVD, bringing the song to an end slightly earlier than you might hope. The CD of course doesn't suffer from this problem, and the music continues into a full ending featuring the singing of "Holy Is The Lord" and "My heart burns for you".
Overall, the production of the CD and DVD is of a very high standard, but perhaps let down in a few places but small things like the lack of crowd 'feedback' and not making full use of DVD 'extras'. Who will the album appeal to? Well clearly dedicated Delirious? fans will be anxious to get hold of a rare DVD Delirious? appearance, and Hillsong fans will also be attracted by the line up. In terms of what this album provides that other Delirious? live albums haven't had before, you're only left with 'Rain Down' and 'Majesty', which might put some fans off. However the version of 'Rain Down' on 'Unified:Praise' is well worth checking out, and if you go for the DVD, 'My Glorious' also stands out as a must-see track. Delirious? fans might think that there isn't enough 'Delirious?' on the album, but then it is meant to be a combined album between Hillsong and Delirious?
The only time the two bands really combine on a song is during 'I Could Sing', with Hillsong clearly taking the lead on that one. It is definitely an album of two halves, with the different styles each taking their own turn. Hillsong and Darlene lead the crowd in worship, whilst Delirious? perform a concert for the crowd. That is the difference between the two bands and each style has it's own place and works well because each band knows it's strength and plays to it.