(Royal Oak Music Theatre, Royal Oak, MI – August 2nd, 2015)
The Church is an Australian psychedelic rock band formed in Sydney in 1980. Initially, they were associated with the new wave / neo-psychedelic movements, but later, the band's music occasionally became more reminiscent of progressive or jam rock; featuring long improvisations and complex guitar interplay.
The Church - Steve Kilbey (lead vocals, bass guitar, keyboards, guitar), Peter Koppes (guitars, keyboards, vocals), Tim Powles (drums, percussion, vocals, guitar), Ian Haug (guitars, vocals) - are now here in North America for a 27-date tour, one that began on August 7th in Toronto, ON and will wrap in Los Angeles, CA at The Roxy on September 10th. The band, who no longer employ the guitar, vocals, and bass guitar work of Marty Willson-Piper, are co-headlining with The Psychedelic Furs for 20 dates, along with seven headline shows on their own.
Touring in support of their 25th studio album, Further/Deeper, perhaps this brand new tour was always fated to happen. You see, an aborted 1988 U.S. tour plan that would have put post-punk stalwarts The Church and The Psychedelic Furs on the same bill back in the day is now finally gracing North American stages this summer.
As the lights go down, the packed house turn their collective heads to the stage, the five members of The Church quietly take their respective positions, and without further ado, the band launch into their opening song, 'Is This Where You Live.' Their unique brand of music turns the low brow storytelling up a notch with new track 'Delirious,' and after lead vocalist and bass guitarist Kilbey thanks the crowd, once the opening chords of 'Laurel Canyon' begin, the crowd applauds en mass. 'You Took,' 'Operetta,' and 'Myrrhis' are next, and with every song bleeding into the next seamlessly, it does make for an evening of one-long-song at times, so to speak.
Kilbey, a distinguished gentleman, always taking the audience by the hand, combining a balance of debonair and ham in equal measures, doesn't stray much from his mic stand center stage, nor does he interact with the crowd much between songs early on. But when he finally does, his self-depreciation is heartfelt. "I feel like I'm in a rock band tonight," he gently smirks, as the band then bring us an excellent 'Toy Head.' "25 years ago," the now chatty Kilbey informs us, "we had a song in the charts for whatever f**king good that did us," he adds, with a low laugh. "We're gonna do it right now for your listening pleasure," he reveals, as the band next play 'Metropolis.'
"Roll up. Roll up, for The Disillusionist. Roll up. Roll up, for The Disillusionist," Kilbey announces into his hands, clasped around the mic head. The Church then allow us to enter their theatrical, subculture world of Halloween Goth with 'The Disillusionist,' a song that runs for nearly ten full minutes and showcases Kilbey's ability to be a Ringmaster supreme. After thanking the crowd for their hearty applause, Kilbey then leads the band into a poppier, mid-tempo song 'Old Flame,' which is backed by the lighter guitar-led 'Lightning White', before the rockier, 'You Took.'
The quite brilliant 'Block' is next, complete with a wicked screechy guitar central break, it is easily (for me, at least) one of the true highlights of the night. "Now we're going from the sublime to the ridiculous. It's a song that doesn't need any introduction, nor never will do," Kilbey admits, before their monster hit 'Under the Milky Way' comes forth. "Ladies and Gentleman, we only have time for one more song tonight. It's from our new album, and it's called 'Miami'."
The new track is a good one, contains all the musical elements that The Church are renowned for, but before the song has even ended, I kid you not, as Kilbey stands his guitar upright, slowly spinning his way around it center stage, before cradling it up the side of his torso in military fashion (complete with actual marching maneuvers), two roadies come on and start dismantling the bands' equipment!
Perhaps it's common practice for The Church, who are celebrating their 35th year of making music, to have their set broken down whilst still performing. Maybe not. But it was something that I had never, ever seen before and is definitely imagery that will stay with me, as will this concert, for a long, long time to come.
Review by: Russell A. Trunk
The highly-impressive Royal Oak Music Theatre is located at 318 W. Fourth Street, Royal Oak, Michigan. It was built as a vaudeville theatre and opened in 1928.
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