In high school, Bill had a record player that would start over after finishing a side. Ultimately this led to many a night of listening such that the record was still playing in the morning when we woke up. No other record graced that machine with the frequency of 1983’s Seance. The Church’s third record was our holy grail, not quite goth, not just rock, and our first peek into the vast awesomeness of the Australian music scene. We followed them pretty religiously through 1988’s Starfish, which just celebrated it’s 27th anniversary. I am listening to it now, the cover stained in beer. “Under the Milky Way” became a big hit, we went to college and moved on. The Church kept on truckin’, putting out LPs every year or two plus a fine bunch of solo recordings from guitarists Peter Koppes, Marty Wilson-Piper, and bassist Steve Kilbey. Sadly, Marty was replaced in 2013. The 25th release, Further/Deeper came out this past August. Appropriately the band played a sold out show at The Chapel. A religious experience seemed imminent.
Added to the lineup just last week, locals Them Are Us Too opened the evening. I doubt this boy-girl duo was alive when the first Church album came out but they seemed to be from the same wavelength. Dripping in black mascara and echo, they filled The Chapel with some pretty fine sounds. The nervous guitar boy had a huge mess of pedals and better yet an ice pick looking thing that he used like a slide. When not in use it had its own holster at the end of his guitar.
As soon as they cleared the stage, the towels came out. You don’t see that much anymore. Over the PA came some sort of tantric trance music, the smell of massage oil filled the air and a woman left the back stage area with a yoga mat. Out front the merch table was selling Steve Kilbey’s Tarot cards with his companion book Tarot of the Time Being. The dude is certainly a mystic of sorts.
Koppes and Kilbey
The Church opened with “Is This Where You Live?” from the 1981 debut Of Skins and Heart. Moving through the huge catalog they hit the highest note of the night with “You Took” from record #2, The Blurred Crusade. At times, four guitars were going at once with as many as 34 strings (including TWO 12-string guitars), lush. Early in the night, he spoke of an intermission and sure enough they did one. After an hour set, they walked off for 10 minutes before returning for another hours worth.
Kilbey joked with the crowd as he announced the ‘penultimate song’ (“Under The Milky Way”) and asked if we knew what that meant. He assured the crowd he was not a pretentious wanker…yet. When someone in the front row handed him four Milky Way bars, he said he would be calling his next song “A Gram Of Cocaine”. Maybe this wasn’t a joke. He spent much of the ’90s with heroin and suggested he was going to smoke some weed during intermission with some folks up front. To end set two, Peter Koppes played some sweet harmonica on “Miami” (the last song on the new record).
To the surprise of the crowd the band returned for encores. Kilbey yelled, “This is our fucking encore where are you going?!” They played “Don’t Look Back” from Blurred Crusade and ended on “Reptile” from 1988’s Starfish.