How did you spend Christmas eve?
Me, I was among the sold-out-crowd that gathered at The Powerhouse to experience the grand magic of The Church as they played their second Brisbane show on the Future Perfect Past Tour. A tour that would see the band deliver three albums in their entirety; their worldwide breakthrough album, Starfish, fan and band favourite, Priest=Aura and their latest opus, untitled #23.
As the band takes the stage for untitled #23 opener, Cobalt Blue, their is a tangible feeling that many of the audience may be hearing these songs for the first time; it is a feeling that spreads like rapture through the room, with each song getting a bigger reception. Set highlight #1 is the anthemic, Space Saviour. Kilbey’s voice has never sounded better and he belts this out with a new found force while churning out one of the spaciest, driving riffs you are ever likely to stomp your foot to. This is followed by set highlight #2, the sparse-noir of On Angel Street. Lyrically, Kilbey is at his most personal, and as he stands looking up into the single spot singing:
You should change the message on your machine
so sad, so strange baby to hear my name
makes me cry when you say we’re not at home
you can’t help but feel a deep ache. And set highlight #3, is the epic, Anchorage. The band are at their sprawling best, and Kilbey delivers one of the vocals of his career, bursting from the at times spoken into the sweet bluster of the chorus. From my seat in the crowd, one thing is clear… untitled #23 is a modern classic.
After a short break, the crowd filter back in for the second serving, the sonic masterpiece that is Priest=Aura. ‘Priest’ has never left my top 5 albums of all time and I can’t see the years ahead changing that. So as the swirling atmospherics of opener Aura start up, I prepare to lose myself in its ethereal landscape. Following the apocalyptic beauty of Aura, Ripple shimmers through the room and lights up every face. This has been a staple of the band’s live set since the albums release and tonight’s version proves why, with the band rising to a sublime crescendo. Other set highlights for me include Lustre; its scathing lyric:
If I never see you again
That will be way too soon
And if I ever get over this
I will be over the moon
I hope that something new comes along
Something more my style
I hope that someone else comes along
And makes it worth my while
still as incisive as ever; Swan Lake, which to this day leaves a sweet pang of hurt when Steve sings:
Oh my ugly ducklings, nobody loves you
Daddy said he’ll buy you some ballet shoes
But he spent all he had on hash
And avoiding another crash
Now who will look after you
the epic jangle of Kings, the manic theatrics of The Disillusionist, the ephemeral Old Flame, the rock & ramble of Chaos and album closer, Film, where Steve takes on lead guitar duties and blows me away… As the band walk off to prepare for Starfish, I am feeling overwhelmed. The perfection of ‘Priest’ is glowing brighter than ever…
And in what seems like a blink, we file back in one last time for the jewel that is Starfish. Album opener, Destination is big, rising and crashing like a wave, then, just as the audience begin to brace themselves for Under the Milky Way, Peter Koppes launches into the opening riff of Blood Money. It’s a great way to break the tension and Tim Powles makes the most of it by asking Peter if his iPod is broken or on shuffle. With Starfish, every track is an immediate hit, the crowd rising in voice with each song. And there are some incredible moments… Steve ad-libbing from Springsteen’s ‘Backstreets’ at the end of Lost is a personal favourite; while the guitar interplay in North South East West is scintillating; Marty rocks Spark, harder than ever and Hotel Womb is an absolute triumph, as the band charge to one final climax.
To play three albums back to back on stage is an ambitious undertaking and one that few bands could come close to pulling off, but tonight The Church are staggeringly brilliant. The Future Perfect Past Tour… well, for mine it is Perfect, Perfect, Perfect…