UK D:Tension Tour 2001 - Brighton Corn Exchange (Feb 2002) (Q Magazine)
Last modified: 01 Feb 2002
Venue: Brighton Corn Exchange
Source: Q Magazine
Author: Paul Elliott
Date: Feb 2002
Christian Rock. Two words to strike fear into the soul. In the '80s the standard bearers were Stryper, big-haired Californians clad in waspish black and yellow striped leather who threw softbacked Bibles at their audience as they delivered hysterical metal-lite anthems such as To Hell With The Devil.
Today, Christian rock has a new face. Grunge revivalists Creed are the biggest- selling rock act in America, outselling Kid Rock four to one with their Number 1 album Weathered. Self-styled nu-metal "messanjahs" POD are one of the fastest-rising bands in the US. And from the unfashionable Sussex town of Littlehampton comes Britain's answer, a five-piece, U2-inspired group called Delirious?
In 2001, these most inquisitive of Bible bashers released their fourth album Audio Lessonover?, opened up for BonJovi in European football stadiums and completed an 18-date UK tour which included two sold-out nights at London's Shepherd's Bush Empire. Delirious? feel their time has come. "This is not just for the church," singer Martin Smith tells Q backstage at Brighton's 1100-capacity Corn Exchange shortly before the ritual pre-gig group prayer. "It's for everyone."
Certainly, Delirious? are an unabashedly populist rock act. History Maker's triumphant climax echoes U2's With Or Without You, Angel In Disguise would make a nice Christmas Number 1 for Westlife, and I Will Follow (not the U2 song) is old-school Radiohead with added chicken-soup-for-the-soul uplift.
Aside from Smith's repeated attempts to walk, Christ-like, over the heads of the audience, clues to the band's religious bent are few, save for a chorus of "Hallelujah" in I Will Follow ("It's not one of our more original songs," concedes shaven-headed guitarist Stuart "Stu G" Garrard), enthusiastically taken up by bouncing teenagers and smiling parents alike. A deserted bar and a merchandise stall presided over by two pre-teen girls confirms the Delirious? audience as the least- threatening fanbase in rock.
There is, however, a little of George Foreman's Punchin' Preacher in Delirious?, notably in the punk rock charge of Not Ashamed. Delirious? finish in celebratory fashion with their Dodgy-aping indie-pop singalong Waiting For The Summer and a festive romp through the Blessed Noddy Holder's Merry Xmas Everybody. A teenage lad sporting rebellious spiky hair and nu-metal enormo-trousers exits quietly, smiling.
In their boxy dressing room, Delirious? are sweaty and exhilarated. It was in this state that they enjoyed five minutes in the company of Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora and wife Heather Locklear last summer. As keyboard player Tim Jupp explains, it was not a genuine meeting of minds. "We'd just come off-stage and we chatted to them for five minutes, and as they left they said, Have a great show, guys, go get 'em!"
Fortunately, Delirious? have other, more dedicated showbiz buddies, including Neil Morrissey, whom Smith and Garrard met while jogging on Santa Monica beach during the recording of the group's 1999 album Mezzamorphis. Morrissey's subsequent support extended to hand-delivering a copy of the Delirious? single Gravity to Radio 1 Dj Chris Moyles, which Moyles refused to play. There are, of course, fundamental differences in philosophy between the five members of Delirious? (all happily married) and the Men Behaving Badly star (who clearly did covet Les Dennis's wife), but as Garrard admits, "Nobody is infallible."
This also applies to Delirious?. "We'd be fools to say that nothing could ever happen," Garrard says on the subject of groupies, "but we're a strong team and part of being a friend is looking out for each other."
For all Garrard's candour, there is little danger of Delirious? betraying the sanctity of holy matrimony on a wintry Wednesday night by the seaside. The band's rider features only bottled water and fruit ("We knew that Q was coming, so we kept all the good stuff hidden," jokes bassist Jon Thatcher). Various family members wait in the hospitality bar; earlier, Smith almost treads on his wife Anna while crowd-walking (to admiring "Ahhs" he then sings There Is An Angel for her).
Before they join the well-wishers, Delirious? ponder the absurdities of life as Christian rock stars in waiting. "We're a cottage industry," drummer Stewart Smith says of the band's independent label Furious? "It works well, because if we'd been signed to another label we'd have been dropped by now."
That said, they've sold 600,000 albums and feel that their message is slowly getting across. "We're trying to encourage people to think about spirituality and how different the world could be," says Martin Smith.
Time to burn those Black Sabbath albums? "I've got Paranoid on vinyl," Garrard laughs. "It won't snap, it's so full of the devil!"