Hillsong United, a worship band formed out of Hillsong Church in Sydney, Australia, kicked off the second half of their Empires Tour in Baltimore on April 28. The concert took place at Royal Farms Arena with Lauren Daigle as their opening act.
The band, which is currently made up of 11 members, includes Joel Houston, Taya Smith, Jonathon “JD” Douglass, Matt Crocker, Jad Gillies, Dylan Thomas, Michael Guy Chislett, Timon Klein, Benjamin Tennikoff, Simon Kobler and Adam Crosariol, who each bring a unique perspective to the group’s dynamic.
The band itself was formed in 1998, and has since rotated out its members as they are called to join the group or pursue other passions and ministry. Houston, whose parents founded the group, has relocated from Australia to New York where he is lead pastor at Hillsong NYC.
As a band with so many members who travel across the world, their dedication, harmony and purpose of bringing the Word of God to thousands of concert-goers each show is unmistakable. Houston, Smith, JD, Crocker and Gillies shared the stage as lead vocalists, taking turns with their own respective solo songs or as a group with impressive coordination.
Taya Smith, who is described as being “a key leader in the Hillsong creative team” on the band’s website filled the night with her powerhouse vocals, which are most popularly heard in their hit songs “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” and “Touch the Sky.”
Unlike concerts where only “true fans” are able to sing along to popular songs, their concerts display lyrics on large screens for all audience members to see. The songs and performances are not about the artists, they are about God, both in lyrical meaning and in purpose.
Each individual person is given the chance to worship and the audience as a whole is given the opportunity to bring glory to God as one body; one church. The arena was filled with thousands of people, and although not everyone may be proclaimed Christians, there is no doubt that each person was affected in some way by their experience that night.
Alongside the music and message, the stage itself added to the captivation, with incredibly constructed and choreographed lighting and digital projections that lit up the arena almost as much as their voices.
One thing that was most evident throughout the concert was not just the ability to work together to bring their music to the audience, but the ease and openness that they had to lead a crowd of strangers in worship. Their set alone lasted over two hours, making time for bringing awareness to Syrian refugees, telling personal stories of their families and taking communion, where they brought one audience member on stage to represent the whole of Baltimore.
During communion, Houston spoke to a 16 year old that he brought up on stage to participate. “There is no limit to what God can do through someone like you,” he said, with enough conviction and hope for each listener to feel as though he was talking to them directly.
For those people who may have seen Hillsong United in concert before, those who have not and those who may not have ever heard the message they bring to people, director Michael John Warren has created a film to do so. The official release date for their movie “Hillsong – Let Hope Rise” was announced before the concert and will be released in theaters in September.