Hillsong Church’s GRAMMY-nominated youth worship band Hillsong Young & Free is back with a new release III (Live at the Hillsong Conference).

The live album, recorded at the Hillsong Conference earlier this year, also features Brooke Ligertwood from Hillsong Worship, Joel Houston from Hillsong UNITED and guest worship leader Chris Tomlin.

Featuring 14 new live versions of songs from their studio album III, with bonus renditions of their earlier hits Wake and Sinking Deep, this 2018 release is another first for the group ­– their first-ever live arena recording.

III is their first studio record ever since the band’s formation in 2012. The album is also their first big release in two and a half years.

Widely known for their previous electropop synth hooks and dance-pop tunes, the songs on III presents a new level of artistic maturity and growth from the band.

There are notably less blazing, bouncing tracks, and many more mid-tempo and worship songs. It is interesting to note that the song sequences on the studio and live albums are different.

The live album opens on a high note with four of their up-tempo songs: Let Go, Wake, Hindsight and Every Little Thing before transiting into a contemplative set that opens with modernised take of Jesus Loves Me. It’s a simple song evident with God’s love for humanity in the lyrics, reflecting on the band’s maturing childlikeness.

Highs & Lows is a personal favourite on this record. The lyrics draws sentiment from the psalmist’s words in Psalm 139, and the live version features Joel Houston on the acoustic guitar. P E A C E is Young & Free’s first song talking about mental health. The song was inspired by Hillsong member Ben Hastings’ wife and her struggle with anxiety. The live version features a more contemplative piano opening and a stronger drum build up as compared to the pulsating synth beats in the studio version.

When our team first heard Days Gone By in the car, we actually mistook it as a mainstream release on the radio, and that perhaps could have been their intention for this piece. It is a beautiful piano ballad that can speak to anyone, believing or pre-believing.

Brooke Ligertwood also has a co-write feature in this album on Push/Pull, and the live version starts off beautifully with an acoustic guitar and is reminiscent of the colour from Hillsong Worship’s latest release There Is More. Ligertwood’s vocals are also featured in the bridge of the live version.

The worship set builds into a brief chorus of How Deep the Love and Sinking Deep. The former draws inspiration from Romans 8 and Ephesians 3, praising God for the depth of His love.

The band’s new rendition of Sinking Deep features a new musical arrangement, and the theme of the song fits in nicely with the flow of the worship set at this point of the recording.

First Love is a lyrical refresher as it presents an outward focus on the salvation of others told from a young adult’s point of view (This is all I want/That the love I have for You/Doesn’t fade along with youth/Can You help with that/The reason that I ask/I’ve seen far too many friends/Walk away and not come back/I want more than that).

Heart of God utilises portions of old hymn I Surrender All to great effect, as they sing about God’s kindness and mercy that leads to repentance, inspired by the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15. Chris Tomlin has a guest feature in this live recording, and it is inspiring to see a cross-generational collaboration such as this.

The live album draws to a close with Just Jesus and Love Won’t Let Me Down, bringing back the pop beats that are synonymous with the Young & Free name.

With a well-balanced mix of the modern pop beats that they’re good at (and known for) and also adding a new colour to their lyrics and music, III is a nod towards Young & Free’s maturing take on creating and articulating worship music for this generation.