Live Music Review: Hillsong Worship

Exeter has had a diverse weekend of musical performances with the Great Hall hosting two of the three. Super Hans of Peep Show fame played a DJ set at the Exeter Phoenix, whilst the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Hillsong Worship played Friday night and Saturday night respectively at the University of Exeter venue.

The University of Exeter’s Evangelical Christian Union is one of the largest societies on campus, so there was little surprise when the seated balcony was full and standing downstairs stretched to the back of the hall.

Hillsong Worship are an Australian Christian band formed from the congregation of Hillsong Church, a megachurch with several sites across the globe. Whilst they sing praise songs these are heavily rooted in pop and rock. They encourage dancing, waving your hands as high as you can, and singing loudly. A huge screen displays the lyrics so you can join in with every song, even the new releases.

They also give the crowd time for reflection and prayer through deep instrumentals that thrum in the background, whilst the on stage ensemble lead an interval of worship. Often, the audience spend a long time with their eyes closed, missing out on the beautiful visuals accompanying the lyrics. These moments don’t feel awkward or out of place, and the room accepts the stillness before jumping back into the excitement of song, somehow more energised then they were previously.

The evening started featuring Tim Hughes, an international pastor who moved from Holy Trinity, Brompton to establish a church up in Birmingham. A Pocketful of Faith and Let it Be Known were particularly popular and if you looked across the hall you’d see everyone enjoying the vocals in their own way. The vast majority of those who purchased Hillsong tickets, know what to expect and come prepared. Some might prefer the other associated bands Hillsong United or Hillsong Young & Free but fan favourites are played throughout, and the crowd is consistently reminded that the night is about God, first and foremost.

Exeter was the final night of a two-week tour in conjunction with Big Church Live. Their performance was slick, well-rehearsed and yet still had that vibe of spontaneity that Hillsong Worship have become known for.  Before the night closed with This Little Light of Mine a wholesome and feel good parting gift, the whole room jumped to This is Living and it felt like the night would never end. In some ways it didn’t. If there is one thing that Hillsong Worship encourage, it is taking that light-hearted feeling of joy and sharing it out into to wider world.

-Bebe Ashley

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