Royal Albert Hall, London, event review by George Luke

Crusaders at Royal Albert Hall
Crusaders at Royal Albert Hall

The opportunity to see Delirious?, Tim Vine and Yfriday on the same stage (and still be home in time for the Eurovision Song Contest) wasn't one to turn down. So on the afternoon of Saturday 20th May, I headed off to the Royal Albert Hall to join Crusaders in celebrating their centenary. I arrived two hours before the show was due to start and was ushered backstage for a chat with Crusaders' head guy Matt Summerfield and a few of the participating acts (including the most surreal interview I've ever done - with Tim Vine). As I was running about in the basement trying to find the gents' loo, I could hear Beth Tysall opening the show by singing "How Great Thou Art" acappella.

I took my seat in one of the boxes in time to see thebandwithnoname going through their set. As expected, it was pretty high-octane stuff. The new band members acquitted themselves well and Chip K looked rather scary with a massive black blob underneath each eye. Two elderly men sitting in the same box as me told me that they'd been involved with the Crusaders since the '50s and attended their 50th anniversary celebration at the same venue we were in now. They seemed to be enjoying the music as much as I did - although one admitted to turning his hearing aid off when it got too loud for him!

Following a couple of congratulatory video messages, it was time for some comic relief from John Archer and Tim Vine. The pair indulged in a little light-hearted rivalry around whether comedy was better than magic, or vice versa. John performed "the most dangerous trick ever!" (swallowing a balloon), while Tim treated us to his trademark barrage of puns and wisecracks. The bit where they went through a list of denominations and asked any members present to raise their hands was particularly funny - but I know from experience that some jokes do fall flat when you try to reproduce them in print, so I won't go through it all here. I will give you Tim's punchline, though: "Any Mormons in? Keep your hands up - Security!"

No Turning Back: Crusaders 100th Anniversary Concert

The Lacey Theatre Company followed John's and Tim's wisecracks with a performance of Rob Lacey's The Poisoned Pool: an analogy of the story of Christ coming to earth, drawing from images of Christ as an artist, painting the world. Like many others, I was saddened by the news of Rob's death in April, so this part of the show was a particularly poignant moment for me, and I was glad to hear that they intend to carry on performing and have a wealth of material Rob left behind. While I found The Poisoned Pool to be a very thought-provoking, well-performed piece, on the whole I felt that the few female acts on the bill just didn't seem to grab the audience the way the blokes did. Blush suffered more from this than the Lacey Company did - but I'm going through the acts in chronological order, so I'll get to them later.

A few more congratulatory video messages - from Steve Chalke and Sir Cliff - and then a montage of human rights icons from around the world set to T-Rex's "Children Of The Revolution" heralded Yfriday's entry. They rocked - especially when they did "Revolution" - but were only onstage for 20 minutes. Not fair!

No Turning Back: Crusaders 100th Anniversary Concert

A small section of the Psalm Drummers (minus founder Terl Bryant) kicked off the second half. Then after a few more video messages, Blush took to the stage. Somehow Blush seemed out of their depth, despite their best efforts. But they did have a fantastic testimony of Jess' knee being healed; they even showed us the cast her leg had been in all week as evidence. More comic relief came from Steve Legg, who kept us amused with witty banter as he prepared for his attempt to break Harry Houdini's record for escaping from a straitjacket. Houdini did it in over two minutes; Steve managed it in 39 seconds, to rapturous applause.

Tommy Baker did some juggling tricks with basketballs, a 100th birthday message from the Queen was read out, and then it was time for the headline act, Delirious?. From the opening guitar riff of "Here I Am, Send Me", Martin and the D Boys had the audience eating out of their hands. "Rain Down", "Solid Rock" and "Miracle Maker" followed. Martin Smith reminisced about how a team from their local Crusaders group would always beat his church youth team at table tennis. Even when the band brought all their wives and children out onto the stage, it didn't get mushy like I feared it would. "Miracle Maker" segued neatly into "History Maker", and the band left us with the strains of "Our God Reigns" ringing in our ears.

Thanks, Crusaders, for a memorable afternoon. Here's to another 100 years under your new name, Urban Saints.and respect to the bloke in the black T-shirt in the front row, who outdanced all the bands that appeared on stage. CR

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