In many ways, Hillsong United works as the publicity arm of Australia’s Hillsong Church – the Australian mega ministry that founded the annual Hillsong Conference in the late 1980s. The group is a spinoff of the church’s recording and touring band, which originally composed songs just for its own performances and for the other worship teams to perform at weekly services.
Hillsong United may have traded church pews for arena seats, but its message remains the same.
“Our hope always has been that people bring someone who doesn’t know Jesus and who might not feel comfortable in a church, but would be OK with going to an arena,” said Taya Smith in a press release announcing the the second leg of the group’s Empires tour, which stops Monday, May 16, at Selland Arena. This is the band’s first official U.S. tour since 2013, though it was part of the popular Winter Jam tour and played at the Save Mart Center in 2014.
“We are called to be invitational with the love, hope, mercy and grace that we have encountered ourselves,” she said.
We write songs to be sung with people – they are always for the people – so when we get to sing these songs with people on the road, it is the purpose of why we do what we do.
Joel Houston, Hillsong United
Hillsong United is one of the most popular acts to rise out of the Contemporary Christian music scene in the past few years; on par with Chris Tomlin perhaps, in terms of its recorded output and live performances. Hillsong was the first Christian artist to sell out Los Angeles’ Staples Center and its 2013 WelcomeZion tour saw nearly 80,000 fans during its run. Its current tour was one of the top 20 global concert tours in April, as ranked by Pollstar. The band was the only Christian artist on the list, with an average nightly gross just over $250,000.
Hillsong United has also seen success with its recorded catalog. Its 2013 album, “Zion,” was No. 1 on Billboard’s Christian albums chart, as was its follow-up, “Empires,” in 2015. That album is currently 21 on the Christian chart, where it has been ranked for 50 weeks.
Both albums also ranked in the top five on Billboard’s Top 200 charts, marking them as crossover hits.
The band was nominated in four categories at this year’s Billboard Music Awards, including top Christian Artist, where it competes with MercyMe, Chris Tomlin and Lauren Daigle.
Daigle has the opening slot on the Empires tour.
“We can’t wait to worship with people singing all the new ‘Empires’ songs as well as everyone’s favorites,” Hillsong United singer Joel Houston said in a release in advance of the tour.
Hillsong United, Empires tour
- 7 p.m. Monday May 16
- Selland Arena, 700 M St.
- $26.50- $49.50
- 800-745-3000, www.ticketmaster.com