"Sing the praises of the LORD, enthroned in Zion; proclaim among the nations what he has done."—Psalm 9:11(NIV)
"Wherever and whenever we meet in the name of Christ, we should consider him as present in the midst of us."—Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary(Matt. 18:15-20)
In a Wednesday evening the night sky encircled Araneta Coliseum. Crowds lined-up and gathered inside the dome, and soon they filled it. While I and my fellow people from the church settled on our seats in an upper box—enough to see the stage where all that happened that night would take place—people continued to group in the boxes above and the floor below.
That scene seemingly appear, as our youth pastor noted, that many Filipinos now are aflame towards God, that many Filipinos are gaining an interest in Jesus Christ. For that night was a night of moving and empowering praise to God. That night, the famous contemporary Christian music band Hillsong United came to Manila to perform their first of two shows (the next was on the following Friday), and, above all, to praise the One who made playing such good and notable sounds possible.
Before the performances started (from the planned 7:30 to around 9:00), 2 big screens near the stage showed very wonderful and artistic videos promoting Hillsong Worship’s latestannual album No Other Name; as well as Hillsong Young & Free, Hillsong church’s newest band; and also Hillsong College and this year's Hillsong conference. The people behind these videos really did a great job of showing splendid art and using fine techniques for a cause.
The performance started, as I’ve said, around 9 pm. And the great crowd surrounding the 11-piece band excitedly cheered and gradually stood as the uninterrupted concert commenced with what I consider as the track I like the most from the band’s latest album Zion—“Relentless”.
As the concert went on, the audience sang together, as well as lifted their hands. And they jumped to the upbeat songs. And I didn’t expect that I would be moved as much as the crowd was.
During the praises in our church’s service on Sundays, I simply sang and clapped; then when I took charge of the visuals for the service as I grew up, I only sing quietly with a low voice. Only in the concert, however, did I raised my hands again, as well as sing my heart out (that doesn’t always mean singing in a high voice, ok?), and jumped at seemingly the “biggest dance party” that night.
The concert went on with a deeper impact and touch around the dome with fresh renditions of United’s trademark songs, from “Hosanna” to “Inside Out”; and new music from their latest album, including “Oceans(Where Feet May Fail)” (with the beautiful and wonderful voice of the only female in the band),
“Aftermath”, and “Stay and Wait”.
The presence of God was really felt as people gathered together in the Big Dome in His Name! What a great experience it was…One remarkable thing I witnessed was when one of the singers mentioned what was imprinted on each black shirt my companions and I wore that night—“If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31).
Of course, all in the setlist moved me that night from “Relentless” to the finale, “With Everything”, where we chanted in chorus a musical melody, like an audience in a football match, which led Hillsong United back to the stage for the encore.
In the encore, they sang some songs which were apart from the band’s discography. They were from Hillsong Young & Free, namely “Alive” and “Wake”. I also remembered singer Joel Houston saying, while the crowd asked for “more!”, “You’re all crazy…” Nevertheless, he noticed earlier in the concert that Philippines is the favorite in Asia, especially that it wasn’t expected that the audience filled the dome! The real finale that put the 2-hour praise to a close was the very well-known “One Way”.
Not only did I appreciate the music. I also appreciated the visuals. Not only were there 2 big screens, but also a “lighted mountain” in the background of the stage, and enclosed in the “mountain” was a mountain-shaped screen.
Throughout the concert the art was impressive, as well as the effects they applied into it, from the bursts of colors to the fast clash of different camera angles. It’s just that the keyboardist wasn’t shown on the live feed (in my perception). I really waited for the keyboardist to be captured on camera, yet I haven’t seen any; but that’s just fine. I’m so much proud of the multimedia ministry that made these visuals go with the music.
Indeed, it was a blessing event, a very fresh experience of praising and worshiping God, as Filipinos gathered that night in His presence. I saw and heard a fresh treatment of modern Christian music, and I felt its amazing effect.
I hope they’ll come here again, and with that, for me to bring my friends with me. I look forward to a DVD of this concert, and for Hillsong Young & Free to perform here.
June 11, 2014—it was a night of moving, relentless praise.
Picture credit: Some were taken by the author, but the majority were captured by his sister.