Review by Jason Leigh
The Church commence their latest tour in Adelaide at the Gov following the release of Man Woman Life Death Infinity a little over a month ago. Tonight there is the constant Steve Kilbey, Peter Koppes, his mid 90s sabbatical in the distant past, with long-time drummer Tim Powles and Ian Haug having replaced AWOL Marty Willson-Piper for the last few years now. Jeffrey Cain ex-Remy Zero joins them to play keyboards and guitar and a couple of times during the set they are supplemented by “Ross Molloy from SA” on bass.
For those interested into the technical specifications, the set passed over the band’s mid 1990s to mid 2000s output and over a third is from the last two albums that have included Ian Haug as a member. Discounting two songs from the 2006’s Uninvited, Like the Clouds, there is a gap of more than 20 years after 1992’s Priest = Aura to 2014’s Further/Deeper with 10 songs from the Church’s first 11 years and then 9 songs from their last 11 years performed tonight.
It is hard to define musically what or where the Church are anymore after the Paisley Byrdsian jangle and psychedelia of their early material to their later era experiments into improvisation, world music and space rock. There is a fair selection of all of the above from the start with the moody travelogue of “Aura” to a new age style on “Toy Head” with an extended outro before the more tangible “Metropolis” arrives. Steve Kilbey karate kicks during the intro and Ian Haug tailors the guitar solo enough to make it his own. While Kilbey beats at his breast for vocal effect during “Delirious”, at other times he is lost in the moment, staring into space, finger picking bass strings while bobbing up and down in a horse riding motion. Early on he wipes the sweat from his brow like a rock salute then between songs he uses a towel and comments, “this has some weird perfume on it” that Tim Powles jokingly takes credit for. Kilbey sniffs at this towel intermittently through the set as a running joke and it’s almost like this equivalent of an oily rag is what is keeping him going. During “North, South, East and West” he appears to sign a cross in mid air but is more likely to be subtlety tracing the directions during that song’s chorus. When Ross Molloy takes Kilbey’s bass on “Undersea”, it allows Kilbey the opportunity to dance around and he nearly trips up a few times while playing the front man no longer constrained by his instrument. The intro to “Tantalized” is a rock band equivalent of a classical orchestra tuning up, a song outro-jam in reverse. The song slowly becomes more recognisable to the audience and when Kilbey finally starts singing it is like breaking back into the song after jamming in the middle. “Reptile” is introduced with a hiss, Kilbey proceeding to appear to be snake-charming himself at one point in the breakdown. Although the accidental squealing feedback added to the soundscape of this last song, Peter Koppes exchanged the guitar mid song anyway. On the way off stage, Powles throws a tambourine into the audience that someone catches but then inexplicably, naively makes a failed attempt to hand back this keepsake that probably any other member of the audience would have held dear.
Not having an encore on the onstage set list made the encore a refreshing surprise especially as there were two, the first commencing with a song perhaps more well known than the two songs earlier “Under the Milky Way”. Prefaced with the droll, self-deprecating “We’ve got a really boring song for you we really hate in the key of C”, “The Unguarded Moment” was a joyous audience sing along. The lyric “Tell you’re friends with cameras for eyes” from 1981 was thematically relevant given the multiple phones and cameras recording the band and was echoed a couple of songs later in the lyric “the camera’s idiot gaze” during “Dark Waltz”. “Block” ended the first encore, the only song other than the played earlier “Day 5” from the mid 2000s. Following “Dark Waltz” which opened the second encore, Kilbey mentioned that this was the first night of the tour, and he thanked the audience which was reciprocated in a loop until he put a stop to the mutual appreciation with, “Just take the gratitude so we can move on”. His announcement, “I’m moving to Miami. You’ll be able to see me anytime you want really” might have at first seemed like a closing comment to those less familiar with the Church’s more recent material but was actually an introduction taking lyrics from the concluding song “Miami”. This song has been an irregular set closer in recent years and seemed more than appropriate to end the night.