That’s right, the day just keeps on getting better! Tonight, at 10pm (Eastern daylight savings time, so 9pm here in Brisbane), Music Max TV will screen a one hour special of The Church’s spectacular gig at The Sydney Opera House: A Psychedelic Symphony. Here’s my review of the gig, which will go down as one of the best I ever see. This my friends, is must see!!! I do believe a DVD of the show will be hitting the shelves for christmas.
Tag Archives: Marty Willson-Piper
Almost a week on from A Psychedelic Symphony and my brain is still firing…
From the moment George Ellis and his incredible 67 piece orchestra take the stage, the night is one of the most blissful of my life. They open with a superb arrangement of Metropolis, and as the band settle in, front of stage, the anticipation in the crowd is tangible. Kilbey whispers into the mic, there’ll never be another quite like you, the crowd burst their seams and the band surges straight into Sealine. Free of his bass, Steve has a new energy, attacking the vocal with fervour, It’s a miracle, let it alter you, and the packed house begins to give themselves over. Lost follows and the arrangement is soaring and lush and then it’s crowd favourite, Almost With You.
Three songs into the set and the bands musical prowess is shining through, the orchsetra, exploring spaces in the songs and swelling their already expansive sonic landscapes.
Anchorage and Pangaea from 2009’s, Untitled #23 are up next. Anchorage not only shows off Kilbey’s vocal depth, it also highlights his theatricality as a front man, and Pangaea has a new found sonic richness. Then we are taken back 30 years to where it all started… the slowed down, sensual throb of Unguarded Moment brings the crowd back to bursting. Kilbey’s voice is smooth and deep, Marty & Peter’s guitars interwine and Tim keeps the engine pulsing. The band then fire things up, unleashing a full-tilt version of Myrrh. The orchestra flexing their muscle as the guitars shift into overdrive…
Steve then hands lead vocal duties over to Peter and he delivers a superb version of Never Before, before moving to the keyboards as the band prepare to close the first set with the epic, Grind. For the first half of the song, the band adopt acoustic mode, allowing the strings to swirl and mesmerise, but as the orchestra leave the stage, Marty straps on the electric and we are left with just The Church on stage… it’s then, you remember why you are here. Marty’s solo is blistering, Kilbey is just about doing the splits, Peter’s keyboard is hauntingly beautiful, and Tim is giving his kit a delicious thrashing. The first half closes and the show has already exceeded expectation.
The second half of the show opens with the gorgeous, Happy Hunting Ground. It is a real treat to hear the orchestra make this soar. The band hit the stage again and tear through a cover of The Dave Millar Set’s classic, Mr Guy Fawkes. Then it’s the first of a string of highlights. Ripple is phenomenal tonight. Peter’s guitar work is sublime and the strings lift the chorus to dizzying heights. Reptile is up next and again it is Peter that steals the show. His guitar work toward the end of the song is nothing less than thrilling… Then we are treated to Two Places at Once, a song that has only sporadically made it into live setlists over the years. Steve and Marty trade verses, and the whole room seems to come to a stand still. It is one of the many ‘pin drop’ moments of the night. But nothing could have prepared the audience for what comes next… The Disillusionist.
Kilbey is absolutely possessed, channeling the lyric and moving like a dervish. The arrangement is epic, a wild mix of rock’n’roll, poetry and theatre. I was completely transfixed. Marty then takes lead vocal duty for Spark, which possesses a youthful energy, before the mood shifts with On Angel Street, Steve crooning some of his most personal lyrics, You should change the message on your phone/ So sad, so strange baby to hear my name/ Makes me cry when you say we’re not at home.
Then it’s the big one, as Steve says, the most popular Australian song of the last three million years, Under the Milky Way. And what can I say… the room is surging, every face in the room lights up. The second set closes with big rocker, Space Saviour. Tim’s drumming is frenetic, the cymbals getting more than a good workout. The crowd are on their feet, the band is waving and blowing kisses but no-one is leaving yet.
They return with Already Yesterday, followed by a shimmering version of Invisible, that also blends in The Velvet Underground’s classic, Heroin and again, allows Kilbey to really let go vocally. The crowd are on their feet for a second time, the band leave the stage, but still no-one is ready to go home.
The final act opens with Operetta. Truly, this song sounds like it was written for an orchestra. I have loved this song from the moment I heard it, but tonight’s version has a new magic. And finally, Marty’s guitar starts to rumble and the band break into wild-rocker, Tantalised. People start to pop up out of their seats and the room is shaking. The band remind us of their potency and we are all held in their spell.
The roar of the crowd is still inside me, and I imagine will be for some days to come. I have said to everyone who has asked me about the show that it’s nights like this that you live for.
Thankfully for the many that couldn’t be there, there will be a DVD release later in the year.
I can’t even begin to say how excited I am about flying to Sydney tomorrow morning to see my all time favourite band, The Church play the iconic Opera House with a 60-piece orchestra as the final event in their 30th anniversay tour (started last year). They have dubbed it A Psychedelic Symphony, a title fitting of a band that have pushed well beyond the realm of their 1980’s commercial popularity, into a deep vein of swirling guitar, snaking bass and driving drum beats, to create a sound that has filled almost 30 albums and EP’s and thrilled audiences the world over.
I feel like The Church have always been with me; each of their albums create distinct memories and are tied to much of my personal history. That said, there is nothing nostalgic about the band, or their sound and I am certain that when the guys do tour on their 40th anniversary, it will be on the back of another album that pushes beyond what has come before it. That is what the army of Church fans have come to love about the band.
So before I start to gush, I want to leave you with what the band do best… play live. Here’s the band playing The Disillusionist from their epic 1994 album, Priest=Aura, with Kilbey in raging rock/poet form. This was recorded last year in El Ray as part of their Past Perfect Future Tour. The Disillusionist is one of my favourite lyrics ever… and he does the Indian Rope Trick/ the one that makes you seasick (read the full lyric here).
And the great news is, tomorrow night’s show is being recorded for a DVD release. Will keep you all posted.
Last night at The Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, a packed house walked out into the still-warm night, with their synapses well and truly lit. In the 2 and a half hours that had passed, The Church had hand picked the soundtrack to the last 30 years of our lives.
For me, the long-term memory was in overdrive… I have not missed the band in QLD (and have travelled many times interstate) since 1990, when I donned my green, pink and black paisley shirt (that one still hangs in the cupboard), black stovepipe Lee’s and Ripple-sole shoes and stepped excitedly into Transformers (on Elizabeth St., now some British Pub I think…) to see The Church supported by another local hero of mine, Grant McLennan. Memories like this were constantly flashing through my head last night as the band played a song from each album in their heady career, starting with Pangaea from last year’s Untitled #23, which recalled a hellishly steamy November night at The Zoo, when the band tore through an epic set to launch the album.
Then it is the fluid groove of Space Needle from Uninvited Like the Clouds (2006), that fires up memories of a night at The Troubadour, where we all walked out smiling with a copy of the limited edition album Tin Mine in our hands, followed by Ionian Blues from the seriously underrated Back With Two Beasts album, which never really got an official release.
We then get a language lesson from the ever dapper Marty Willson-Piper as the band dips into El Momento Siguiente and pulls out the gem that is Reptile. Even in stripped back, acoustic mode, Kilbey’s bass line snakes its way into your chest to delivers its venom.
Peter Koppes then takes the mic for Appalatia from Forget Yourself followed by the timeless opening riff of Unguarded Moment from the first of their acoustic albums, El Momento Descuidado. The band are well into their stride and Kilbey is in raconteur mode, regaling the crowd with stories of playing Warnambool and the manager racing upstairs after a gig to tell them to get back on stage as the crowd were rioting as they had not played said song.
We are then treated to the epic Invisible from After Everything Now This, with the band rising to a glorious crescendo and Kilbey riffing on Kevin Ayers’ Decadence, which the band covered on A Box of Birds, followed by the lush guitar sounds of Louisiana from 1998’s, Hologram of Baal. An album that has a very special place in my heart… the first time I heard this album I was to say the very least, ‘relaxed’, and it has forever worked its way into my fabric.
The mid-to-late 90’s was undoubtedly a difficult period in the band’s history and Kilbey is not backward in introducing Magician Among The Spirits as a miserable album, but tonight’s version of Comedown is absolutely joyous. The first half of the set is then rounded out by My Little Problem from Sometime Anywhere… and I am back in 1994 at Grand Orbit (what a shortlived venue that was), excitedly watching Steve & Marty in acoustic mode, thankful that they were still making music after threatening to split a couple of years earlier.
The second half of the show opens with the gorgeous Mistress from my all time favourite Church album, Priest = Aura. After seeing the band tour on this album at the now sadly defunct Metropolis (I think the last time I saw Kilbey play his famed milk-white electric bass), I wondered whether I would ever see them again, which makes tonight even more special. And speaking of Metropolis, this song followed, with Marty giving it some Spanish flair.
It was at this time (with tongue firmly in cheek) that Kilbey started to discuss the success graph of the band and the next album, 1988’s Starfish, definitely saw the graph skyrocket. And tonight they give us a classic version of the anthemic, Under the Milky Way. To put it simply… Starfish got me through Year 12. In the head of a 17 year old at odds with the societal pressures of school and becoming a man, Starfish provided much needed solace. Can’t ever thank them enough for what it did for me.
Then it’s headlong into the paisley era of Heyday. The set list has had its surprises, but none bigger than Already Yesterday, which after some on stage chatter, they agree, they may never have played before this tour. It sparkles, still possessing a youthful shimmer.
The Remote Luxury LP is next and this time it’s Marty’s turn to take the lead vocal, on 10 000 Miles Away. The 3 strong guitar/mandolin sound is sublime, stirring the crowd for the final numbers of the night.
From Seance its the sublimely gothic Fly and then its straight into another Church classic, Almost With You from their second album, The Blurred Crusade. Peter’s guitar solo is as sharp as ever. Anyone that hasn’t played air guitar along to this just hasn’t lived!
And finally, we are back in 1980, delving into Of Skins and Hearts. We know it’s not going to be Unguarded Moment, so it is a real thrill when the band lock into the slick bass groove and jangly guitar of Tear It All Away. It’s a classic way to finish off 30 years of time travel…
But the band are incredibly generous, coming back to treat us to a cover of The Smashing Pumpkins song, Disarm, a rocking version of Space Saviour and finally a full-tilt jam of their 1990 classic, Grind. This has always been a live favourite and tonight they don’t disappoint. Steve and Tim, providing the rhythmic engine, for Peter to lay down a luxurious bed of keys and for Marty to cut loose (I am sure he was finding new notes on the fretboard), before tonight’s journey reaches its conclusion.
Great art is an amazing thing… it changes you, becomes part of you, so while tonight’s show is over, the life of each of these songs (and the countless others that weren’t played) have taken on a new meaning. I know my stereo at home (and in the car) is about to become very familiar (again) with the atmosphere and electricity of The Church… ah yes, there are many new memories to be created.
On Wednesday night, The Church were inducted into the Aria Hall of Fame and I must say, never has a band been more deserving. The Church are one of those all too rare bands, that have remained vital over a 30 year period of writing, touring and recording. During this time they have released more than 25 albums and a vast number of eps, singles and other oddities, all to critical acclaim. Marty Willson-Piper & Peter Koppes’ spaced out, chiming guitars, Tim Powles’ driving rhythms combined with the rich mystery of Kilbey’s vocals and snaking basslines, have provided me (and countless others) with some of the musical highlights of my existence.
The enigmatic Mr. Kilbey took the stage with gusto on Wednesday night, delivering a sermon that I am most certain, the Aria’s will never see the likes of again. His razor wit and linguistic brilliance charmed the audience crazy…
So while you can, check out Kilbey’s acceptance speech in all its glory:
And following that (and it’s a hard act to follow), why not check out what it is The Church do best… play live.