By Denis Semchenko
It’s been some time since I’ve visited the Old Museum, and it’s pleasing to see that the concert hall’s spacious natural reverb is still there. In hindsight, The Church couldn’t have chosen a more apt venue for the Brisbane launch of their new album Further/Deeper than the Old Museum: a stately red brick building that indeed resembles a place of worship.
As soon as he takes centre stage, Steve Kilbey warns us there will be no old songs played (cue a mock-flustered “awww…”), yet those in the know don’t need to fear: considering the band has been preaching to the converted since 1980, every Church gig is welcome electric lash. Heard live for the first time, Further/Deeper songs are less immediate to a diehard fan than, say, choice nuggets from its much-lauded predecessor Untitled #23, yet they too pack plenty of lush double-strung chime, swirling distorted echo and Kilbey’s zooming bass runs – a rather underrated player, he’s in lightning form on his trusty Fender Precision and Bass VI. The LP’s key numbers all pass requisite muster; the sentimental Delirious boasts an underrated melody, first single Pride Before a Fall is a dreamy high and Laurel Canyon harks back to the best of the outfit’s mid-90s “wilderness period”.
I’ve seen the Blurred Crusaders for a good 15 times, but tonight I can’t shake off the feeling I’m watching a new band. Even though four-fifths of the collective present a familiar sight and sound that’s decisively more Karmic Hit than Powderfinger, the 2014 lineup is a markedly different beast: gone are Marty Willson-Piper’s dervish-like presence and distinctive staccato 12-string attack. MWP’s recent replacement, hometown boy Ian Haug however does an admirable job of blending in with the band’s signature sonic wall, largely dispersing with trad-rock licks of yore. The Church’s secret weapon of the past five years, utility man Craig Wilson is also prominent in the mix, switching between keyboards, acoustic and electric guitars and bass with ease, while spindly-legged maestro Peter Koppes calmly gives the audience a signature guitar masterclass.
Having turned 60 this September, “old Steve” Kilbey may be, yet he’s still Australian music’s penultimate trip-rock guru. As ever, he’s in top form both as frontman and entertainer, peppering his between-song banter with trademark barbed witticisms (“fuck Flight Facilities… I went to see The Church!” he quips after giving a holler to a 15 year-old fan). At one point, he wonders if anyone likes prog-rock and duly gives us some choice “proggy stuff” – although if one were to think, the Sydneysiders’ post-1990 output has been heavily prog-inflected.
It’s a richly-rewarding night sequence all the way, but it’s Further/Deeper’s closing triptych where the combo get to rock out to full extent. Anchored with a droning bass riff, Lightning White is an Invisible-quality psychedelic epic, while Let Us Go glides and Miami shoots up to the level of You Took as a driving 4D rocker. The seated rock & roll mums and dads comprising the majority of tonight’s sold out crowd whoop and whistle with approval; thanks again, Messrs Kilbey & co, for taking us to a parallel universe – even for a mere 80 minutes.
By Denis Semchenko
Click here for details of Steve Kilbey’s new book – Biography | Something Quite Peculiar : The Church. The Music. The Mayhem – Steve Kilbey