Concert Sutra Going To The Church
By terri sapp
Photographed by terri sapp
© Concert Sutra, All Rights Reserved
The first person we ran into when we arrived at the Variety Playhouse on August 6, 2006 (my sweet and beautiful Mama’s birthday) informed us that The Church would be going at it acoustic style on this tour. That’s right, folks, we got the rare opportunity to have this religious experience with no Rickenbackers in sight! I watched closely as the men around me tensed up with anxiety, but I maintained my cool, as I knew these guys would rock it out, no matter what instruments they were playing. After close to thirty years of touring, this was my first time seeing The Church play live, but as their studio recordings always reflected, there is nothing if not pure genius running through the veins of every member of this holier than most group of musicians.
I was told by my “The Church concert veteran” (the gorgeous and talented Mr. Noel Page) that they could be expected to open the show with the first song from the band’s latest studio release. Sure enough, “Block,” from the 2006 Uninvited Like The Clouds record, was first to make its way into every ear of this loyal congregation. For me, even though I have loved these guys from afar, it was love at first sight for me when Steve Kilbey (lead vocals, bass), Marty Willson-Piper (guitar, sometimes drums, sometimes bass, seems like everything), Peter Koppes (guitar, keyboards, mandolin, harmonica), and Tim Powles (drums, sometimes keyboards) stepped out and picked the first note. These guys seem to still have the energy of a bunch of twenty somethings! Primarily Marty Willson-Piper, who loves to ham it up onstage, making for a very entertaining time for all. “Block” is a very dramatic song, and demonstrates the fact that The Church maintains a level of excellence in their music after so many years of putting out albums! We even got mandolin early in the show! I Love it!
“All I Know,” from the 2004 El Momento Descuidado album, is a wonderful song for an acoustic show. Steve’s vocals and the lyrics he sings pierce the hearts of everyone listening. Harmonica is a sure fire way to make a great song! I don’t think that there was guitar or drums on this song, and I didn’t even miss it. Then, to please the crowd, 1990 Gold Afternoon Fix’s “Metropolis” seemed to bring the energy level back to sky high. What a song! To me, it sounds so English, even without Steve’s cutey pie accent. Tim and Marty really showed off on this one. The whole place sang along with Steve’s lovely melody at one point. “0408” from the 2004 release El Momento Descuidado is one I would have loved to hear the “Ricks” on, but, man, they did a fine job of supplementing musically to fill in where the electric guitar would normally shine. The bass and drums are the Saints of this number, along with Peter’s fine mandolin pickin’.
Kilbey explains that they are trying out a new thing called Elizabethan Rock, so if we liked it, you should love it. “Grind,” of 1990 Gold Afternoon Fix fame, rocked out with a medieval vengeance for all of us peasants to lap up. Again, with Marty, Peter, and Tim showing off! There were times in “Grind” that took me into a Led Zeppelin moment! Between Kilbey’s soft cunning voice, and the band’s endless abilities to crank out the juice, “Grind” rocks! A very powerful song, even acoustically. 1988 Starfish’s “A New Season” spotlights Peter Koppes on piano. Always a beautiful addition to an amazing show. “Providence” has some of the finest guitar work, electric or acoustic. I am so glad they played this. I must say that Tim is a master drummer. He can wail, or chill and always keep an impeccable beat. In the case of The Church, Marty, Tim, and Peter give Steve a close run for his money as far as my favorite! It is rare for me to like a whole band equally as well. Even though every band member, except Steve, plays all other instruments in the band, I still just love him, and his commitment to vocals and bass.
2003 Forget Yourself’s “Sealine” was a major switch up of instruments. I believe Marty ended up on the drums, Tim on keys, and Peter on guitar. As I sit here on the Beach in Venice, California writing this, I feel like they DID actually follow me “to the Sealine.” What perfect ambiance music for chill time on the Pacific Ocean! They truly can set a mellow mood with the best of them! “Don’t Look Back” from the 1982 The Blurred Crusade is a peek into their more psychedelic style, as is “She’ll Come Back for You Tomorrow,” especially when acoustic. The effects on the guitar bend through time and space. Just before another new one “Pure Chance,” someone yelled out “Global Warming!” Of course, Steve couldn’t resist, “Global Warming…fucking politicians…America’s really got that sorted, hasn’t it?” Marty is such a fire cracker, he started a banter back and forth with an audience member, and seemed to get a bit annoyed. “Pure Chance” is my favorite song from the 2006 Uninvited Like The Clouds record. When they played it, I randomly ran into just the friends I wanted to see. We had a blast! All over, I heard talk of the missing Rickenbackers. The boys, especially the musicians, really seemed to be bummed that they weren’t there, but I found the acoustic renditions to be quite soothing and yet still satisfying to my need for rock and roll. On songs like “Pure Chance,” the mandolins helped me to not even miss the electric guitars. I do understand the significance of these guitars to The Church. Seems like The Church with no Rickenbackers would be like Tori Amos with no Bosendorfer. “Two Places at Once” from the 1994 album Sometime Anywhere went perfectly with the mellow mood they had going on. They floated through this gem, featuring the vocals and harmonies. Peter’s harmonica work hit my heart’s bullseye. I can’t resist a man with a harmonica! I just love the way these guys hop around and play with each other’s instruments. The crowd was literally mesmerized by The Church.
First appearing on 1985’s Heyday, “Tristesse” rounded off the later part of the show with finesse. By this time, the faithful followers sing along, yell, scream, clap along, and sway to the melody of the acoustic guitars and mandolin. All of a sudden, Steve took the opportunity to poke fun at the crowd when a guy yelled for “Metropolis,” which was played third song into the show, “Did I just hear someone yell for Metropolis? Whatcha gonna do? That’s a real bad case of short term memory loss.” He’s a comedian, too! I *heart* him! “Buffalo” from the 1998 release Hologram of BAAL brought a more drum heavy, back up singer type of feel, with bits of Peter’s fine piano playing thrown in oh-so-gracefully. Another from the 2006 Uninvited Like The Clouds album, “Easy” is another of my favorites, which made me very happy to hear. This is another one that, with Tim’s drumming and Marty’s rocking guitar, did not even feel like anything was missing. Acoustically or otherwise, this song kicks MAJOR ASS!
As a segue into the next song, Steve says, “Sometimes writing a song is like creating a monster. You don’t know what it’s gonna do. And you know one day I wrote this fucking song a long time ago. I had no idea things would happen, and it would go to Hollywood. I think this song had sex with some producers, cause suddenly it was in all these films. It was in the one with the rabbit, Donnie Darko; and one night I was sitting home watching Miami Vice, and there’s this boat coming up the river full of cocaine and the police riding along side, and they’re all waiting for this song to start so the police could bust the guys with the cocaine; and then it was on Scrubs; and it was on Cold Cops (?); and it was on the OOOO CCCCCC (exaggerated)! The first time it was on the O.C., my fifteen year old daughter said, you know Dad, you are that cool! It was on a lot of other things: Australian National Anthem; it was # 1 around the world for 500 years; it sold five zillion copies; we’re filthy rich beyond our wildest dreams because of this song, and now we’re going to play it for you!” Maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but, of course, the song is “Under the Milky Way” from the 1988 record Starfish. I have heard this song a thousand times, at least, and this night they pulled out all the stops! Pete’s harmonica work made us all very happy! Steve and Marty were so animated and all over the stage, I never would have guessed they were not playing on their usual rig! They really blew the roof with the instruments they were playing. Big ups to DBabbs on sound!
Steve then buttered us up for the last song by saying, “This is the bit I find really hard. You have been the best audience on this tour by 1 million miles! Seriously! We’ve had some real shuffles, but this makes it all worth while. Atlanta is always a fucking great city for us, and it’s always great seeing your lovely faces.” I love this guy! I could listen to his sweet English accent all night long! To end the night, 2006 Uninvited Like the Clouds “Day 5.” It’s like they wanted to send us off with a lullaby. I love the harmonies and laid back piano and bass.
The crowd begged soo hard that they came back for an excellent encore, including one of my absolute The Church favorites “The Unguarded Moment” from Of Skins and Heart. I am in love with this acoustic version! Tim’s drums are brilliant! So witty, these guys, “Tell your friends with digital cameras for eyes.” This is one of those songs that I closely identify with right at the moment. “So hard finding inspiration. I knew you’d find me crying. Tell those girls with rifles for minds that their jokes don’t make me laugh. They only make me feel like dying in an unguarded moment.” To top off the night, “Roberto Dickinsion,” (opening act Rob Dickinson, formerly of the Catherine Wheel) as Steve called him, joined The Church for a few. A perfect end to this fabulous evening!
To view my photo gallery of The Church, visit: http://www.concertsutra.com/cschurch0806/. As always, the Concert Sutra photo gallery is made possible courtesy of Leah Yetter, Photographer.
For more information on The Church, and to catch them on the road, check out their website at http://www.thechurchband.com/. You can also find the individual members of the band on Myspace at the following addresses: Steve Kilbey at www.myspace.com/stevekilbey; Marty Willson-Piper at www.myspace.com/martywillsonpiper; Peter Koppes at www.myspace.com/peterkoppes; and Tim Powles at www.myspace.com/tpspacejunk.