Sometimes the old cliché, that "you have to see a band live" to really hear the songs the way they were supposed to be experienced, is really true. When for King & Country's first album, 2012's Crave, first appeared on the music racks and iTunes page, many (including this reviewer) saw the Calvin Klein-like, soft lighted album cover of Luke and Joel Smallbone (brother's of CCM veteran Rebecca St. James) and immediately wrote the band off as just another pop band, the kind that come and go in the music industry every year.
But after having seen the band live this summer, and now on film in Hope Is What We Crave, it's a great pleasure to report that for King & Country is a fine live band, with a sense of the epic, and that the songs on their debut album, Crave, soar in a live setting. Song tempos are amped up a bit here, rhythms are sharper and the Smallbone brothers sing with an urgency and energy that comes with crowd interaction. In fact, every song from the debut album matures in the live setting.
Starting off with a cheeky, Braveheart-inspired crowd cheer, the Smallbone brothers show a command of the stage that belies their band's young stature (possibly honed from many years appearing here and there in their big sister's concerts and albums). First song "Fine Fine Life" starts the action out well, with intriguing and thought-provoking lyrics about "Jesus on the side of the road with a busted tire" and a theme of service possibilities wherever we go, both the live album, and concert film hit a high note right from the start.
In "Light It Up," Joel Smallbone takes a minute to explain the origin of the song (a good friend of the brothers who struggled with clinical depression), and demonstrates that a good story, told succinctly, can illuminate a song for the audience. In "Pushing On A Pull Door," the crowd's clapping and energy elevates the song decidedly, and the band's frantic flying all over the stage (seen in the concert footage) playing all manner of instruments, adds to the tense musical pulse. Epic Christmas song "Baby Boy" proves to be the highlight of the set, with majestic sleigh bells in the intro and a musical build in the mode of Coldplay or Mutemath. The seven band members increase the size of the music, and make for a big, big sound.
As for the film side of things, the concert is well shot, with multiple cameras and expert cutting that makes the stage show (and the small theater that the band is playing in) seem much, much grander. Playing all kinds of instruments, the band gives the filmmakers lots to capture, and there is not a dull moment to be had. The DVD also contains a music video, the behind-the-scenes making of that video and a few short testimonies from the band about the inspirations behind the songs.
All this adds up to a great package of music, well performed and captured. If the band can harness this energy, then for King & Country's next album will be one to look out for in the near future.- Review date: 9/15/13, written by Alex "Tincan" Caldwell of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Disc Two - CD: Live audio from Hope Is What We Crave | LIVE
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