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The Church at the Spiegeltent Print E-mail
Thursday, 02 December 2004
An unusual and exciting show for The Church.

The Church
"The Famous Spiegeltent"
Arts Center forecourt, Melbourne
Dec 1st 2004
by Brian Smith

The venue was very unusual - a travelling tent that held about 350 people for an intimate, unusual, involving and exciting Church gig.  For those keeping score, I've not seen The Church play their own grand piano live before, or Steve lead the band into so much funny chatter.

Regarding instruments there were no electric guitars, just acoustic 12 strings, nylon 6 string, an electric bass, drums (including a huge marching band drum) and a piano.  Instruments were swapped constantly and Steve made the most of his voice on songs where he only sang, playing no instruments.  Peter played guitar, harmonica and piano, and sang "A New Season" at the piano ! Tim played drums, piano and bass, Marty played guitars, some drums and bass guitar, and Steve played bass, guitar and sometimes just vocals.

With Simon Polinski at the mixing desk we got straight into it with Unguarded Moment from the El Momento Descuidado album. Laeticia Rodriguez, my new Church friend, told me that it *literally* translates to "The Unguarded Moment", but a Spanish speaker would not say it that way; a different last word would be used (sorry, I forgot what it was :( Send it to me again and I'll post it here.)

The new songs (0408, cows come home, all I know) worked very well though Steve introduced a couple by saying it'd be the first and last time they'd be played...we'll see how that holds up :)  The older songs were mostly from the Momento album too.  One of them, Metropolis I think, was being played with a slightly Spanish feel on Marty's nylon 6-string.  After the first verse Steve lets a "Yiiiiipaaa !" go, and when we reached the instrumental break he said "If you want to make any Mexican noises, nows the time to do it !", getting 300-plus "Yipa ! Andalay ! Aiaiai !" responses. 

As they set up for Almost With You Steve said he'd been told that it'd been played at the footy (played at an Australia Rules Football game), and that he knew he made it at last in Melbourne, and that his under-15 coach was wrong when he said Steve would never amount to anything in the world of football. He showed off various heroic footy poses, called for Peter to play a heroically testoterone driven solo (this was *during* the song), dropped in phrases like "go on, you little ripper" and "push on, my little mates"...he's got a hell of a memory for crazy phrases - there were a lot more. This one would be a great bootleg :) 

It wasn't all light-hearted though. For me the peak of the show was reached in the first encore when they played "Invisible", from the After Everything Now This record, which Tim said later that he and Peter have been trying to get into the set list for ages.  It started with just Peter on piano and Steve singing softly and playing guitar (?).  It built up louder and louder as Tim and Marty entered and after two verses Steve starts singing Decadence from the Box of Birds album doing two verses from that.  As the song wound down, Marty sings "All I ever wanted to see, was just invisible to me" as Steve sang "marlene, drink it to marlene".  A great rendition of both songs; I was totally transported.

The crowd was excellent and obviously knew their Church catalogue, Steve's voice was excellent; strong and smooth, and Marty, Tim and Peter did excellent work with the new instrumental setup. Simon Polinski told me that the piano was the only disappointment for him - it had been set up with two Shure SM-57 microphones, which was a terrible choice (not his). It was like listening to a Steinway Grand with wet cardboard stuffed in your ears !  It sounded OK for the crowd, but from an engineering point of view, a lot of sound was lost.  Another little highlight was Steve's bass work during Chromium, which Marty sang. Its a complex and relentless bassline, which Steve played with eyes closed and didn't back off during the whole song - not just a pretty vocalist :)

Tim told me afterwards that Liberation music wants The Church to tour Australia doing the same show, but with Marty joining The Saints this probably won't happen.  It's likely that unless something changes, this'll be the last Church show for about nine months. And hey, as someone who's waited *years* between gigs, nine months is entirely reasonable !  Tim also mentioned that among the plans for the 25th anniversary events next year will be to play at the Sydney Opera House again with a full orchestra ! They would have arrangements of most of the songs they played tonight. I suggested that it'd be a perfect opportunity to play the second greatest instrumental of all time, "Happy Hunting Ground". We'll see if that happens :) Tim also talked about the 5.1 mix of Forget Yourself and said that as "dense and layered" as things sound, they're actually not !  The re-mixing engineer had told Tim how surprised he was at how few tracks there actually were on the album - the perception of density and layering comes from the harmonic interactions between what the band members do. I told him I'd had a similar reaction when I saw the scores for Tchaikovsky's 5th and 6th Symphonies..."that's *it* ? That's all it takes ?!" Yeah, just four lines of music...but *which* four lines, Smarty-Pants ? Take two genius pills and call me when you know what you're doing :)

Obviously it was an exciting and unusual Church show; definitely one to remember.  Great work from everyone, as usual, but I know I'm biased when I say I enjoy watching The Church.  I think you'd have to be pretty hard-hearted to not have enjoyed seeing four friends enjoy themselves as The Church clearly did.

-- Personal Stuff --
I'm in Melbourne for two weeks, helping my parents out while my Dad recovers from an operation.  It was a great surprise to see there was another Church show scheduled as I'd missed the earlier November shows.  I asked on HotelWomb if anyone else would meet me before for drinks and a bite to eat, and that's how I met Laticia and Andrew.  I planned to go up to the venue and see if I could get us in to the soundcheck, but as it turns out my two new friends were making a film about Marty and were sitting in on an interview in his hotel room - no help needed from me getting access !  I said my hellos and told Marty about the new Shadow Cabinet.  Then I rode with Steve, Natalie (Steve's lovely wife, still a Church fan through and through !) and Marty to the show !  It's great to be in the company of people who have been friends for so long - they joked and riffed on one idea for most of the trip.  Peter was at the venue practicing his piano parts for New Season and Buffalo and was a bit worried about playing and singing New Season; something he'd never done before.

I stayed through the soundcheck and show, then went out for snacky-pies with Matt and Monica Green, two fellow-travellers from De Olden Days. They're moving to the USA soon, so good luck to 'em with that ! I returned to the venue and helped pack some equipment, rode back to the hotel with Tim and Simon (Simon was urging Tim to upgrade his studio equipment), and had the honour of being invited out for dinner with Steve, Natalie, Simon, Tim and his family afterwards. We had a lovely Thai meal and we talked about life and work in America, hurricanes, politics etc.  I think Tim was happy to not be discussing The Church, just for an hour or so :)  Simon Polinski and I walked back to the station and talked about engineering, microphones, Stephen Cummings, and staying up late :)  He's a great guy (or "top bloke" as Extreme Southerners say) and has been friends with The Church for many years.  My thanks to the band for the show and letting me come along, and to Natalie and Angie for listening to my silly Church/Kilbey questions, to Tim's family for a nice chat, and to Matt and Monica for catching up again.

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