Hillsong United brings worship experience to Birmingham

After a 3-year break Hillsong United filled the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex’s Legacy Arena with millennials and families May 2 for the fifth stop on its North American tour.

More a worship service than a concert — even with the lasers and multicolored lights — the Australian-based group had the crowd on its feet and singing along as they played new songs and old favorites like “Oceans” and “From the Inside Out.” At times the voices in the audience rivaled Hillsong’s in volume.

Lead singer Joel Houston greeted the crowd with a hearty “Roll Tide” in a distinct Australian accent, but came back to unity in Christ.

“Sports brings us together but also divides us. We’re a church; we’re a family. I think it’s better if we’re on the same team,” he said.

The Australia-based, multiplatinum group’s mission is to write songs that awaken churches and individuals to the fact we are redeemed and called into the story of God. God makes wayward notes into something more beautiful than they were in the first place, he said. Houston focused on those facing depression and encouraged them to just keep going.

“I’m going to play a few wrong notes; I’ve already played some,” Houston said. “God will make it beautiful. He’s always redeeming, fixing, restoring.”

Houston said he went through a dark time and had the feeling his performing days were over and he would never stand on stage again. He wrote the song “As You Find Me” about that difficult season, he said. 

“Does it ever feel that the harder you try, the more you mess it up or is it just me? Sometimes we lose confidence. It’s OK to not have it all together. Don’t compare. We’re all human,” Houston said. “[God] doesn’t make mistakes. He hasn’t made a mistake on you.” 

The group took some time to pray for those “in a fight.” Hands raised all across the arena to indicate the need for prayer and the time concluded with a resounding “Amen” from the crowd.

Tour continues

Though Houston and Taya Smith are Hillsong’s main singers, 11 musicians and vocalists swapped instruments and roles throughout the evening while words for the songs scrolled on screens around the stage. Key members of the group played a more subdued set on a small stage in the middle of the arena towards the end of the evening. 

The concert also featured opening acts Amanda Lindsey Cook and Mack Brock. 

Hillsong’s May schedule includes several concerts in Florida before the tour moves to Canada and the West Coast. (Tracy Riggs)