Hillsong United Milwaukee Concert as reviewed in The Phantom TollboothEdifying, entertaining tunes, most with enough lyrics to keep them from sounding mantric and preformed with heartfely gusto. 

Hillsong United
Bradley Center
Milwaukee, WI
13 June 2011

I couldn't have come to a concert I was going to review much less prepared for the task.

I had the advantage of having seen Hillsong United's sort of evangelistic/sort of ecumenical 2009 tour documentary, We're All In This Together, but it would likely be unfair t o compare a concert experience to a movie, however well their oddly-promoted cinematic experiment may have depicted the Australian praise&worship rock band's life on stage and road.

I don't have any of their last several albums, nor a friend along with me who was much the wiser about the group. My bruh-in-the Lord concert companion likes P&W music generally more than I do, and he leads it for his church's young adults group. He would prove to be a valuable ally in analyzing the concert after the fact.

But hey, if I, my companion and the several thousand other people present in the same venue where Milwaukee's pro basketball and hockey teams play came to praise and worship the Most High, is it strictly a concert we're attending, anyway? If not, roughly $35-50 is a sizable donation for honoring the Three In One for a couple of hours (if you're not press, that is, heh heh).

Plus, without either HU's latest longplayer, Aftermath, nor any of their last several, I was at a loss as to much of what we were to hear, anyway. And since those singers and plsayers leading us in worshipful and praiseful song didn't introduce themselves, the Aussies before us really did seem to care more about "the Almoighty" and as little about themselves as they could.

Considering, that is. That's considering the high tech spectacle that came along with the band. Before they even began, there was a filmic collage of all sorts of pop culture ephemera-commercials, movie & TV clips, seemingly found video and whatnot to comment ironically and sincerely on the proceedings to follow and culminating in an introduction to the none folks on stage who were our conductors of a P & W experience. Following that, of course, was the technology attendant to making the music, including synthesizers of some kind, lyrics on jumbo-trons in order to sing along (hence, that P&W experience).

HU started off strong and dancey, in a new rave/rocky disco manner for the first several  songs before taking the tempos down to balladic proportions. My thought was that they'd ramp back up to higher beats-per-minute by show's (again with that distinction; was this a show?!) end. That didn't happen, however, and that was fine enough.

It was during the slower segment of their set, though, where they played the two songs I recognized. Touchy feely, "Jesus is my significant other" and doctrinally, theologically wanting as I find it, "Mighty To Save" has a fine melody, and they assayed the tune well. It likely also got the biggest applause of the night for Brian Houston (presumably; remember, they dodn't introduce themselves). The titluar number of their current album I recognized because, really, there aren't too many songs, P&W or otherwise, that use the word "Aftermath," now are here? Plus, HU's song by that title has a sweet little recurrent piano motif to makes it memorable.

Also during the portion of slow P&W, there was given that most time honored, if biblically dubious, tradition: the altar call. Not that there were pastoral workers from the numerous churches that brought buses, vans and cars full of attendees to minister to those in the arena who would "make a decision for Christ," but the call was given from he platform for anyone who'd not yet accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior to do so right then. The young adult pastor with me agreed with my assessment that, sincere and heartfelt as that call to salvation was, it would have been better prefaced with a fuller explication of counting the cost for following and giving one's life to the Prince of Peace. That's only fair for those who felt the Holy Spirit's wooing, yes?

And, not to second guess God on this one, but should the Holy Spirit have done much of the aforementioned brand of wooing here? Praise & worship music is explicitly for the churched/saved and definitionaly not an evangelistic tool, yes? Anyone from the various church groups filling up the venue would be guilty of some kind of bait-and-switch were they to invite some non-Christian friend or neighbor out to see Hillsong United under the premise that they'd provide just another Christianny rock concert when, in fact, their lyrical content's pretty much strictly vertical in nature and should not be relateable to those who have yet to get salvation. God can and does use the tactical blunders of His most well-meaning saints, though, so if anyone there that night did indeed come to true saving faith, great!

Those tactical peculiarities aside, however,  Hillsong United provided edifying, entertaining tunes, most with enough lyrics to keep them from sounding mantric and preformed with heartfely gusto. A spiritual experience? Insofar as all music provides that, yes, plus the lyrics when they were especially resonant. A fun night out with a good friend and multiple thoudsands of other kin in Christ? Definitely!