Big on Faith, Big on the Charts (Los Angeles Times)
Last modified: 14 Apr 2001

Source: Los Angeles Times
Author: John Roos
Date: 14 Apr 2001

Britain's Christian Rockers Have One Foot in the Mainstream.

The members of Christian rock group Delirious should be ecstatic. After all, in its homeland, the British quintet gets its singles played on mainstream and college radio stations, its music videos are routinely broadcast on MTV and VH1, four of its singles have landed in the Top 20 and its 1997 "King of Fools" album has gone platinum.

This kind of spiritually bred invasion of the pop charts is practically unheard of, yet what could be the biggest measure yet of the band's crossover potential is still ahead. Starting in June, Delirious, which headlines tonight at UC Irvine's Bren Events Center, will open for middle-of-the-road pop-rockers Bon Jovi and Matchbox Twenty during a summer tour of the UK.

Delirious-which features singer-songwriter-guitarist Martin Smith, lead guitarist-vocalist-songwriter Stuart Garrard, keyboardist Tim Jupp, bassist Jon Thatcher and drummer Stewart Smith-uses similarly soaring harmonies, catchy melodies and the occasionally crunchy guitar riff as those two secular outfits.

But how will a straightforward song of praise such as "God You Are My God" go over with fans used to pop confections such as Bon Jovi's "Wanted Dead or Alive" or Matchbox Twenty's "Push"?

"To be honest with you, I can't wait to see how we fit in with those two bands and their fans," Garrard said from a tour stop in Alberta, Canada. "We certainly don't hide our faith, but our focus will be on playing rock 'n' roll, not preaching the gospel. Our set will be limited to 35 minutes, and we don't want to use this opportunity as a platform for worship.

"When you get to know us, you'll find that we're not a bunch of crazy, religious nut-heads. We're pretty ordinary, down-to-earth people." Delirious did, however, take a bit of a walk on the wild side with 1999's "Mezzamorphis" album, a conscious move toward a more contemporary sound. The layered, urban-sounding collection, rife with overdubs, synthesizers and experimental production techniques, was embraced more in dance clubs than in churches.

"It was an album we had to make because we needed to get past a sound that was becoming stagnant," said Smith, taking a turn to chat. "The themes were basically the same, but some people weren't willing to listen past all the layers of production.... I think it was maybe a little too daring for the core Christian audience, which is really too bad."

Last year's "Glo" brought Delirious back to its roots. The opening track, "God You Are My God," even begins with monks of Ampleforth Abbey singing Psalm 63 in Latin.

It's hardly surprising that some have found the band's zig-zagging path hard to follow. "At times, we've been a bit perplexed ourselves," Smith said. "We even address it in our song, 'The Mezzanine Floor,' where there's this feeling we're in-between the Christian and the mainstream rock markets. Sometimes the parameters, and expectations, of each are so narrowly defined that we don't fit into either one.

"Whether you're a Christian or not, I think the whole point to writing songs and playing music is creating something that others can relate to, that touches them-or speaks to them about their lives. Delirious has always been about communicating powerful truths and we've been blessed because so many people have found comfort and strength in our work."

Yes, the British are coming. But will Delirious, which formed in 1996 in Littlehampton, England, inspire fervor here in the colonies? "I love America and the enthusiastic reception we always get there," Smith said. "But it's a trendy culture with a lot of bandwagon jumping ... more than in the U.K. Like now, it seems as if every record executive is searching for the next big Latino artist or boy band.

"We believe that God is bigger than all of that.... He has to be. Once you open your life to God, it should be a life-changing experience that lasts forever. That's the message we're trying to get across, particularly to the kids. Christian music is not some flavor-of-the-month thing, and the five of us are in it for the long haul."

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