By John Curley
The long-running Australian band The Church celebrate their 35th anniversary this year. To mark that occasion, the band has released their 25th studio album. The album, Further/Deeper, contains 12 tracks featuring The Church’s trademark psychedelic, shimmering guitar sound. They performed six of the new songs at their stellar, sold-out show on Saturday, March 14th at Rough Trade NYC in Brooklyn, NY. The Church’s 18-song, two-hour-and10-minute set provided fans with a fantastic look into their deep catalogue.
The Church appeared to be in great spirits at the show, and lead singer/bassist Steve Kilbey seemed to be amused by the things that people in the crowd were shouting. Kilbey would sometimes answer them back with a chuckle.
The new album and tour brought with it a seismic change within the band. Guitarist Marty Willson-Piper, who had been a member of The Church since the band began, left and was replaced by Ian Haug from the band Powderfinger. Having to take the place of a longstanding, founding member of the band would seem to be no easy task, but Haug fits into The Church’s lineup quite seamlessly. Partnering with longtime guitarist and founding member Peter Koppes, Haug delivered the goods. They are quite an effective guitar team. Kilbey, Koppes, Haug, and drummer Tim Powles brought The Church’s incredible musical tapestry to life throughout the show. The Church were augmented by Craig Wilson on keyboards and guitar. Wilson also played bass on a few songs to allow Kilbey to move around the stage more and express himself to the crowd. And there was another musician that played bass on one song.
Kilbey seemed to enjoy himself most when he was singing without playing bass. He has become a powerful frontman over the years and prefaced a few songs with introductions. For the older tracks, he asked the audience to take their minds back to the year the songs were released and joked about things like the fashions of the times.
The Church’s live performance made the new songs seem more vivid and breathed new life into the older tunes. The crowd roared when their favorites were played. Among the highlights of The Church’s set were the performances of “Metropolis” and “The Disillusionist.” Their best-known song, “Under The Milky Way,” was played near the end of the main set and was absolutely spectacular. But they saved the best for last, as their performance of the final song of the night, “Reptile,” was epic. They extended the song a bit, Kilbey’s bass roared through the track, and the guitars soared and intertwined perfectly. It was terrific, and the band left the stage to loud cheers.
The Sharp Things, a New York City-based band led by singer-songwriter, guitarist, and keyboardist Perry Serpa, were the opening act. Their 40-minute set was very engaging, and they received a great reaction from the crowd. Serpa joked that the response in Brooklyn was quite a contrast to the stony silence that their opening set for The Church in Philadelphia had received. The Sharp Things performed a song in memory of their late drummer, Steven Gonzalez, that was quite moving.
The Church’s show at Rough Trade NYC was one of the final shows on their North American tour in support of Further/Deeper. They close the tour with several performances at South By Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, TX from March 18th to the 21st.
The Church’s set list at Rough Trade NYC was as follows:
Is This Where You Live
Under The Milky Way