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Sounds like … everyone's favorite British worship band with the U2-meets-Coldplay sound, live in concert.At a Glance … a simply smashing live album that is both exciting and worshipful – one of the best of its kind
Not too long ago, some guy with the same name and who looked a lot like me reviewed Delirious' latest studio album, Touch (aka Audio Lessonover), as "good, but less than excellent." The simple truth about music critics is that we just offer opinions and sometimes we're wrong – I did say sometimes! I still generally stand by my critique of Touch. It isn't Delirious' best work, but I've come around on two key points.
First, contrary to my initial impressions, Touch is not simply Audio Lessonover with five less songs and one new track. It turns out that a number of the songs have been mixed differently and for the betterment of Touch. While some songs on Touch will still be less accessible for some listeners, others like "Waiting for the Summer" and "Love Is the Compass" sound even better on the newer album.
The other concern I had with Touch is that the songs initially didn't seem to sit well with Delirious' past work. I was wrong again, and the proof is in Access:D, a new two-disc live recording inspired by the popularity of their early Live & in the Can disc, or perhaps the UK-released D:Tour – 1997 Live. No doubt some fans will wonder how this plays in with the bonus disc of live tracks that accompanied the release of Touch. As far as I can tell, half of those tracks come from the previously released live albums, and the other half come from Access:D. In other words, most of Access:D will be fresh to your ears. The new tracks from Touch sound fabulous in a live setting alongside the classic tracks. The key seems to be in the production. Touch is certainly the band's most different-sounding album to date, but they sound more at home when performed in the same concert as "Deeper" and "My Glorious." Access:D features the new songs "Love Is the Compass," "Touch," "Show Me Heaven," "Take Me Away," and "Fire," which all sound terrific in a live setting with the audience enthusiastically singing along to them – especially the chorus of "Fire" and the collective whoop heard in the hook of "Show Me Heaven."
Going a step further, this is more than a live reworking of Delirious' newest material. Access:D is simply one of the best live albums available, demonstrating a band that has grown increasingly more comfortable performing in front of large audiences. Better still, it's a portrait of a band that blends live rock energy with truly passionate worship better than anyone else. Recall their Live & in the Can album, which interspersed the songs with a number of "spontaneous" sections that were essentially audio collages of concert highlights. Though kind of cool, it was certainly a production gimmick that detracted from the illusion of listening to a single concert on disc. Access:D features a number of transitional links that use hooks from some Delirious songs to lead into other songs. For example, the album begins with lead singer Martin Smith singing the chorus to "Touch," leading into the familiar opening bars of "Deeper." Later, the band segues from a worshipful conclusion to "My Glorious" into the "glory in the highest" chorus from "Blindfold," eventually settling into "Love Is the Compass." These transitions are a real treat, illustrating the skill of the musicians, the wealth of the band's catalog of songs, and the worshipful atmosphere that has made their concerts so remarkable.
I've seen the band in concert a couple times, and this is truly the next best thing to being there. There's no shortage of popular favorites. Tracks from Glo, Mezzamorphis, and King of Fools are plentiful, with highlights including "God's Romance," "Investigate," "History Maker," and "Heaven." At one point, Stu G. switches to dobro and leads the audience in an acoustic rendition of "King of Fools," and Martin pays tribute to the their recent Spanish-language album by singing some of "I Could Sing of Your Love Forever" in Spanish. There's even the popular new punk rock rendition of "Happy Song." The only notable omission from the set list is "Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble," which does appear briefly in one of the later segues on the album. It's not a great loss since it's available on other live recordings, including the bonus disc from Touch.
Though culled together from several tour stops over the last year, Access:D perfectly captures the band's live sound, and seems like a single concert. Martin's voice even begins to crack and croak toward the album's end as though his voice might give out if he sings just one more song. His passion is matched by Stu G.'s inspired guitar work, offering enough evidence to rank him among the best guitarists in Christian music. Access:D represents the most complete Delirious concert captured on a recording-two discs, twenty-plus songs, nearly an hour on each disc. If you've ever wondered what all of the hubbub is about concerning the so-called live worship experience that is Delirious, this is your answer. Hey, you know it's good if it makes a critic retract his past critiques!