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Now Is The Time: Live At Willow Creek
Furious? / Sparrow
15 tracks / 77:42 minutes
Let's see here. Loads of singles with b-sides and remixes galore. Three prior live albums. One loaded DVD featuring two documentaries, every music video and more. A "Greatest Hits" type disc with re-recordings of some of the band's more famous songs. A Spanish language album. Delirious? sure can crank out the extra material. Their latest release is a live cd/DVD combo titled Now Is the Time: Live At Willow Creek. Quite a mouthful to say and not nearly as rock & roll of a name as the recent live disc from the Foo Fighters, Skin & Bones Live. But like the Foo Fighters, Delirious? knows how to give back to their fans, a rarity in the Christian market. Sure, there's a truckload of "Special Editions" coming out lately, but those are more of a piss-off to fans than anything else. "Hey, thanks for being a fan and buying the record in week one, now buy it again six months later with a couple new songs and some DVD footage for full-price or more!". But I digress.
Excepting the the countless Joy Electric and Starflyer 59 EPs, singles and b-sides floating around out there (courtesy of the prolific Martin Bros.), there are very few christian bands that do much in the way of "fan service. Of those few, Delirious? is consistently one of the best. Fans of D: wanted a new live album. Well, how about a live album AND a live concert DVD in one creative flip-book package, each disc featuring over an hour of music, the DVD containing a documentary on the lives of the Delirious? boys and a short segment on putting together the Willow Creek show. Content aside, does the new disc live up to the high standards set by the band's 2003 double-live album _Access:d_?
I'll start with the DVD. On the technical side of things, the picture quality is good (if a bit grainy). The audio is in 5.1 Dolby Pro Logic and sounds great, with lots of crowd noise coming from the rear speakers. Dynamic multiple-camera angles, well-paced editing and transitions make the visuals appealing. Outside of asking for slightly better picture quality, I've no complaints with the production of the DVD.
As far as the actual concert is concerned, Now Is the Time focuses mostly on the previous two Delirious? albums World Service and The Mission Bell - neither of which have been recorded live to date. And really, that's good news. Delirious? covered so many old songs in such fantastic form on the aforementioned Access:d that there's no need to redo them here.
The concert opens with one of my least favorite songs from The Mission Bell, but live "Here I Am Send Me" is a much, much better song. Right from second-one Delirious? engages the crowd in call-and-response action, making sure the audience is the proverbial "sixth member of the band." Delirious? aren't content to replicate their albums on stage, no. They extend songs, change bridges, speak, read from the bible (as in "Now Is The Time", in a powerful moment), and truly put on a fantastic, professional show that at the same time honors, edifies and glorifies God. For me I'm also extremely glad to hear some Delirious? songs performed without the tired "female gospel chorus" ruining them. "Now Is The Time" and "Majesty" benefit the most from alternate takes. Another mediocre Mission Bell track, "Solid Rock", benefits from the live interpretation. Martin Smith delivers the rap segment in the bridge (on the album, delivered to my irritation by TobyMac) by speaking through a megaphone. I prefer it.
The highlight of the entire show is the epic "Our God Reigns." A sweeping, lyrically uncomfortable and convicting song on The Mission Bell, live it becomes even deeper and more imminent. The song proper is over seven minutes long; later, D: reprises it for five minutes, leading the crowd in worship and perhaps changing hearts to think outside of themselves... to the work of God we could and should be doing. The moments are hopeful without avoiding reality, recognizing of the NEED we have for God - not merely a selfish desire for Him to make our lives "better." Powerful stuff.
Now Is the Time is also a showcase for just how good of of live band Delirious? is. Martin Smith is an engaging, dynamic front-man, his body and voice expressive and intimate as though he is performing for fifty people in a small venue versus the thousands packing Willow Church. Perhaps he truly is singing for an "audience of one." Stu G is the classic lead guitarist, intent and focused on his weapon of choice. Stew Smith and Tim Jupp, on drums and keys respectively, take a bit of a backseat to the guitarists but when you do see "Smee" his facial expressions reveal how deeply into bashing the skins he is. Personally, I love the shots of bassist Jon Thatcher. Jon is easily one of the most under-rated bassists in music today, no joke. Delirious? basslines are fitting and tasteful, often creative and complex, and watching Jon play them live with a certain quiet intensity is a treat. The D: rhythm section is solid as a rock (no pun intended.) Pity in North America we rarely get the chance to see Delirious? in smaller venues like they sometimes play in Europe. They're good enough to not need the trappings of the "big show," the personalities and charisma pouring out. Of course I'd rather they have a big fan-base!
Honestly, there is too much good about the DVD to cover in one review. The little things in a D: performance (such as the band asking everybody to call somebody on their cel phone to hear "Every Little Thing") are numerous and beautiful. The bonus features are worth your time, taking you into the "ordinary lives" of the D: boys - and reminding you that they're normal people behind the "celebrity." All in all, a fantastic DVD. If you're wondering about the lack of music videos, well, the band put their entire music video library out just a couple years ago on the "Archive:d" DVD. Now Is the Time is under no circumstances a rehash of any previous Delirious? video project.
The DVD alone is worth the price of purchase. The audio CD is a bonus, really, an audio version of the concert you just watched with one or two track differences. The DVD closes out with "Investigate"; the cd with "All This Time" (likely because a great live version of "Investigate" is already on cd format on Access:d). The CD lacks "History Maker" but that's no loss, a couple live versions of the song already exist. To make up for the one less-song, the "radio edit" of "Our God Reigns" is tacked onto the end (after "All This Time" closes the cd concert). The radio edit is, unfortunately, a mangled version designed for American Christian radio. The new arrangement is not as strong, and frustratingly the band changes the line "God didn't screw up when he made you" to "God didn't *mess* up when he made you." It's only a one word, but it removes much of the convicting passion and seriousness from the track. Still, a minor complaint in the scheme of things.
Bottom line: Now Is the Time is the latest in a long line of outstanding releases from a band that - a decade into their career - refuses to rest on their past successes. Delirious? continue to grow and evolve as a band. What hasn't changed about the boys from Littlehampton, however, is the band's drive to do "more than they have to." They didn't have to release a live concert DVD at all, much less one of such high quality. They could have merely put out another live CD, no DVD in sight. Instead, Delirious? "paints the town red" with a fantastic, <I>fantastic</i> release. Delirious? fans, don't miss out. If you're not a fan, you might be one after watching the concert. Highly recommended.
Ryan Ro / hollandrow.wordpress.com
add an extra half if you're a Delirious? fan
With all due respect, to
some wonderful bands such as Skillet, Petra and Switchfoot there never
has been a band that has so completely combined worship with the element
of rock music as Delirious? Led by vocalist Martin Smith the British band
proves once again proves why they are the best with their performance on
the album Now Is the Time: Live At Willow Creek, Chicago, U.S.A.
By Joe Montague, exclusive rights reserved
Joe Montague is an internationally
published journalist / photographer. His ministry is dedicated to the memory
of his late son Kent David Montague who went to heaven at the age of 18.
All copyright and distribution rights remain the property of Joe Montague.