View From The Dressing Room (Cross Rhythms Magazine)
Last modified: 01 Aug 1998
Source: Cross Rhythms Magazine
Date: Aug 1998
The De Montfort Hall in Leicester is buzzing as Delirious? bring the '98 version of the D:Tour to town. Cathy Burton from Blueberry stands vulnerable on the stage. Without the rest of her band and with only an acoustic guitar and her enigmatic powerful voice as defence against the crowd waiting in anticipation for their heroes, she handles the tricky business of being a support act with great dignity, quieting the crowd's conversations with the beauty of her songs. Definitely one to watch!
Backstage it's business and banter as usual! From the moment I meet the band it's clear that their trips to America are having a lasting influence! Follically challenged keyboard player Tim Jupp is losing weight! His secret? A rather strange American diet book which allows him to eat bacon and eggs for breakfast and still lose weight! As for drummer Stewart Smith, his appearance is radically altered too. Our hair is going in opposite directions. I am growing mine (giving rise to Tim christening me "Tufty". I, of course, respond by calling him "Baldy"!!) and Stewart's was cut at 7am in a Nashville salon! Strangely he confesses that it was, for a short time, coloured red! Doesn't bear considering, does it?
On stage the band unveil a pair of new songs from their forthcoming album which is being meticulously recorded during '98 for release next year. The new songs are well received and indicate that the band's U2 influences are coming through strongly on the new material. There are some new videos to accompany the live songs and the entire set is slightly scaled down technologically from the previous leg of the tour. Some of the older material has been revamped and given new life including a powerful chunky version of "Louder Than The Radio" which has been included on the American version of 'King Of Fools'. There are some nice moments, for an encore a huge white sheet is dropped over the front of the stage and the band's shadows are projected onto it from the rear of the stage. Martin's image almost fills the sheet as he sings a revised version of "Did You Feel The Mountains Tremble" but true to form, to one side Stuey G and Jon Thatcher engage in their own fun, throwing humorous shapes like naughty schoolboys.
The Live Delirious? experience has recently been captured on a budget priced CD alongside the one hour video 'View From The Terraces'. The CD wasn't originally in the frame as Martin Smith explains, "We originally just recorded the gig to have a soundtrack to the video, but the songs came out so well we thought, 'Well I'm sure people will appreciate just having these out on a CD' and we played well that night. So we picked the best tunes and I'm really pleased with it, for what it is."
Tim elaborates, "We've tried to keep it a little low-key really, and pushed it as a souvenir for those people who were on the tour - it's not really a 'Live In The Can' No 2, because that was recorded over a long period of time and it captured a whole era of what we were doing. This album does really capture what went on during the D:Tour."
Martin reflects about the D:Tour, "I think just being in those venues was what did it for me - not necessarily the size of the crowds, but being in those venues, like Shepherds Bush Empire, and the Manchester Academy. I think it was just an encouragement to us that we could pack out those places and get our D:Crowd in there. I remember the Manchester gig was just thick with atmosphere and God was there and the crowd were up for it, and then there were other nights where you get a different crowd of people in and it changes the emphasis. Every night was different and Shepherds Bush in London was different because it was a London crowd, and a little bit more 'come to watch'. None of them were bad though."
Stu Garrard remembers, "We'd been travelling round the country for the 18 months previous to that, so what was really nice was to go to the bigger venues, to do a shorter stint of time, but playing to just as many people. I think some of the highlights for me would be walking out in front of that big video screen and starting 'Sanctify' and just seeing so many people that we'd seen from the couple of years previous all turning up - it was a good moment."
The 'View From The Terraces' video captures the heart of Delirious? from the on stage performances to some of the stranger moments of being a rock'n'roll band! Tim explains some of the thinking behind the video, "We've always wanted to do a video and it's quite a big job really. We wanted to do it well, so it's taken its time coming. But we're really excited and it's come out, not just showing the D:Tour, it's got footage from that, but also backstage stuff from the last year and it's quite humorous in places - I think it shows us as we really are" The video shows some interesting clips of Martin getting his hair done. Tim laughs, "We've really bared all, not in a literal sense, but I think we've let our guard down a little bit here." There's a wonderful clip where Martin fluffs up an interview on television. Tim again explains, "We were doing a TV interview and he was trying to describe what he thought Delirious? were like - "and it was exciting...etc...etc.", and the little out-take is of the interviewer telling him off for not saying "exciting" in the most excited way."
It seems that Martin is the brunt of a lot of the video's humour! Tim enthuses with glee, "You can actually find out that Martin does dye his hair, contrary to popular belief, that it naturally has golden streaks in it!" He laughs again, "Yeah, there's a few little give-aways on the video." Martin takes all of this in his stride! Does it mean that we're going to get Martin Smith's hair secrets I wonder? "Well there aren't many secrets to be honest," he grins, "but you might get a little glimpse into me looking very, very stupid."
The bulk of the work of putting the video together fell to Stu Smith and Jon Thatcher who heroically spent long hours putting it together. Stu Smith explains, "It's the first time we've put a video together so we really didn't have too much idea! It was a long, long job and we'd allowed two weeks but we did a month's worth of work! We were there editing in London arriving at nine o'clock in the morning and the earliest we left was 11 at night. One day we finished at 6.30 in the morning! We definitely breathed a sigh of relief when it was all completed! We're so pleased with it because it really does capture what it's like to experience Delirious? in a live gig. It's exciting for us to capture that excitement on video and for people to stick that in their VCR at home, press the play button and really experience it in their front room and to be able to use that video as a resource to play to mates, school mates, college mates, work mates, whatever! I think it's a great product, we're really proud of it."
Having spent so many long hours working on it, I wondered what Stewart's favourite moment could be? "It's a bit of an in joke," Stewart laughs, "it's when Craig Borlase, our writer guy responds when the crew were doing vox pops in the foyer at Southampton and he pretends to be from Belgium."
'View From The Terraces' aptly has footage of the band's memorable performance of "Sanctify" at Champion Of The World. Watching the video, it is difficult not to be deeply moved by the spirit of the event and the passion of the performance. Over a year later, I asked what memories the band had of the day? Stu Garrard responded, "It was a great day - we were really looking forward to it - Noel Richards is a good friend of ours, and we wanted to support him and back him right up with that. And of course, that doesn't take anything away from the fact that a chance to play at Wembley Stadium is a very exciting thing! And again, we were so surprised to see so many people that we'd seen around the country show up and just really get into our set, and it was just a part of a great day."
It's the biggest crowd the band have played to so were they nervous before went on? Stu explains, "I'm not sure whether nervous is the right word - it was just so incredibly exciting - so full of adrenaline." Memorably, as the video testifies, the five men of Delirious? were suitably attired in football kit with spoof names on their shirts but there was one mystery. Why did all the shirts have a number five on the back? Tim Jupp goes all mysterious on me and says "That's an interesting question that we often get asked - we have no idea why '5' is associated with Delirious? and why it's in our name." Stu helpfully chips in, "I think it's simply a design thing that a '5' looks a little bit like an 'S', and if anyone wants to think anything else, then send your suggestions in."
Not sure whether it's worth inundating Delirious? with postcards because you never know when they might read your correspondence from the stage during the famous sofa section of their sizzling set. Tonight in Leicester there is more banter with fans, letters but no fruit and no standard lamp! This was no surprise as I had spotted the lamp looking a little forlorn and worse for wear in the makeshift studio where the band are currently recording!
On stage Martin launches into a worshipful "Lord You Have My Heart" and suddenly the crowd turn their hearts to worshipping God. It's a beautiful moment. This is still what makes Delirious? so special, the seamless transition from being a great rock band one moment to suddenly lifting the crowd into the presence of God. Where others choose to pigeon hole Christian music into to either worship or artist/band related, Delirious? straddle the divide creating a whole new approach.
In corresponding with American friends, it is clear that there is a huge amount of anticipation across the Atlantic for the British invasion of Matt Redman and Delirious? if only because it's a fresh approach. The band have visited on promotional tours and regale me with tales of gruesome PR duties and bravery in the face of inquisitive journos. Tim Jupp explains that they have only had the chance to play a handful of American dates, "We've done a few gigs on the west coast, and up in Canada - Vancouver. The great story there was that we've never been there before and turned up at this gig and there were 2,000 people who showed up - and people had driven for 24 hours or so, and it was great, a really great gig." Even so, America has yet to taste the full monty Delirious? live experience.
Martin Smith is careful to keep things in perspective when he says, "I think that they're really digging the music over there. They keep on saying it's got a certain freshness to it, and I'm pleased about that. Whether or not Delirious are going to save America - I think that's a bit too much - a bit too heavy a statement, but I think that we may have a small part to play in it.
The band's songwriting, whether it's the worship material on the 'Cutting Edge' releases or 'King Of Fools', has already won many fans within the music business in America and Martin reflects, "I think that some of the comments have been that it is quite honest in the writing, and that seems to be refreshing to the people over there. But I can't really comment - we've just released a record there and I think we need to see the reaction of the people really. It's fine to get a reaction from the industry, but we need to get the records out there and see the effect it is having."
The 'View From The Terraces' video shows that the boys have clearly had a good time on their trips to the USA, after all Jon Thatcher even went as far as getting married in New York! Tim Jupp shares his thoughts, "I think we've just made a lot of great friends really and we've been over several times last year, predominantly for promotional and business meetings. We're finding our way and planning the way ahead with Sparrow and Virgin. This year we're really going over there to play a lot more. We're going to be playing at a lot of the summer festivals and as we don't live there, we need to hit as many people as we can in the shortest amount of time. So I think we're on mainstage at nearly all these festivals this summer - we're reaching several hundred thousand people over a short amount of time. It's going to be a really good opportunity just to let a few more people hear our music and make a few more friends. America is such a huge place and it's difficult to know how to do it really, without living there."
Stu Garrard continues the band's consideration of playing in America saying, "I think that what America is picking up on is a couple of things. Firstly that they can see what is happening here amongst the young people and how one of the songs mentions the Revival Generation and that whole feeling of a people movement in the UK and we're just a small part in that, along with people like Matt Redman and others. Secondly, they see that there's an honesty in the songs and music, almost a naivety about the themes and the lyrics, and a British sound as well, which obviously will go down well. So I think that's something that will really turn them on. And I think that a lot of these guys in the American Christian record industry have come out of the revival situations, like in the '70s with the Jesus Movement, and stuff like that, and once you've got that sort of taste you don't want to forget it - I think that's the sort of thing they can taste with us."
Many people have observed that there has been a change in the spiritual climate in Britain, especially amongst young people during the last couple of years. Thankfully that change has happened at a grassroots level and although many Christian musicians have played their part (and Delirious? are perhaps the most visible) there has been a wonderful lack of hype. Stu observes what he has seen, "I think just a zeal, and a hunger, for God, and an excitement about stuff which has been great to see." Tim continues, "Even locally, I think even back home in our own church, I just see there's such a seriousness in the young people about doing the business, and I think there's a real fresh evangelistic edge to a lot of these young people. They're really determined to go out there and spread the news and I think that has really come from a renewed passion and a hunger after more of God."
The fact that the band are choosing to record their new album near to their homes and the fact that they don't want to move to America to make an impact there is tribute to the fact that this is a family band! All the guys are married and my conversation with Martin was curtailed because he had to get home to babysit his one year old girl to let his wife Anna go out!
I imagine the pressures of being in a band must be difficult. Martin is disarming in his response, "I think that it's the same as anybody really. You have to sit down and talk about what your priorities are going to be. Every week is different. Sometimes it can be totally balanced and another week it can sometimes go out a little bit. But I'm just grateful that I'm in a marriage where we talk all the time and we're very, very happy. Anna is also someone who's totally behind what I'm doing. Without that, it would be impossible to be away and be so focused. She's fantastic! I'm amazed for all the guys how with being married, it's been so successful, and I know that it is a priority to keep that as a first priority, and the music is second."
A little known fact is that three of the band are brothers-in-law! Martin, Stewart Smith and Tim Jupp are married to Jon Thatcher's three sisters! Martin laughs at the thought, "Can you believe having Tim Jupp as a brother-in-law? You work together and then you have Christmas and there he is! He's just around all the time! But what a great bloke!"
I suggest that the combination of family and work in such an intense fashion must in fact be a little, err...weird? "Well I think that's one of the reasons why the band and the core of it is really strong," Martin responds, "'cos we just have to continually talk about things. We can't let anything fester about issues that arise, and when we go away all the girls look after each other, and I think it works well. I'm amazed, but it works!"
That network of support was tested in the summer of '97 when Stewart Smith and his wife lost their baby in the 12th week of pregnancy. Talking to Stewart before the Leicester gig he told me a bit about it, "It was really hard and because it was so unexpected it really knocked us off balance. It makes you ask questions. What's going on God? We'd had so many people praying and it's at times like that you have to ask questions. Do our prayers work? As time went on we pieced the bits back together and the fragments of what we were feeling, questioning God and talking to people and trying to chat and bring out the emotional stuff as well. Everybody says you can go through some really bad stuff but somehow this bad will be turned into something that is good and we did find God in a new way and found that God really cared. We really did find it tough but we found out something new about God for ourselves and we learnt a lot about each other and about being open. I learnt a lot about being a husband and how do I comfort and get alongside my wife."
The close family network of the band also played its part as Stewart explains, "At times like that it's your friends that keep you going especially, especially when you're feeling disillusioned and you don't understand and they haven't got any answers really because everyone is as confused as each other! It's having people that come round and make you meals or just sit with you and watch the TV. Months later, you look back and see Jesus in your friends and your family and that's one of the good things."
The song "Summer Of Love" was written as a result of Stewart's experiences and is featured on the 'D:Tour' live album. It remains his favourite song when the band are playing live. He comments, "There's so much depth in it. We used to mess about in the van at the beginning of 1997 and say, 'This is going to be the summer of love' and as we got into the summer, the miscarriage happened. At the end of the day, it was the summer of love because God was involved in it all. But for me every time we play it, I think about what happened. My wife's pregnant now so it really is quite an emotional thing and it's a very passionate song as it builds to the end, it has that sort of intensity which really draws people in. Live we're using a different video and there are some of the words being written out by hand on the screen."
In Leicester the band kick into the song and it is an intense moment in the set. Now understanding the background, I find my eyes darting back and forth from the giant video screen to Stewart drumming, totally mesmerised by the song and trying to guess what he's thinking at that moment.
The gig closes with a huge version of their biggest song "Deeper" and as the music fades and the crowd disperses happily into the night, I'm left reflecting that 1998 is going to be the summer of hard work for the band as united in purpose they set forth to make an impact in America and continue work on their much awaited new album.