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Steve and Marty in Melbourne 1995 Print E-mail
Thursday, 29 June 1995
The photographs I took at these shows are in the Image Gallery.
The Church
Continental Cafe
Melbourne
July 28th & 29th (and August 14th) 1995

by Brian Smith

This was the first time I'd seen The Church in acoustic mode, so I wasn't
sure of what to expect.  I'd seen Steve play two solo shows here and the
quality of his songs demonstrated by the fact that they sounded great whether
they were played by a four piece rock band, or by one person with a six-string
guitar.


These two concerts proved the rule.  Hearing songs like Tristesse, The Night
Is Very Soft and Reptile arranged for two 12 strings opened up a new side of
the songs; a new way of hearing them.  Can you imagine Reptile sounding
medieval ?  It has a structure that stands out when there are no chords, bass
or drums.  It has often struck me that you can get the same level of enjoyment
from a fifty piece orchestra as from a four-part vocal piece.  In the same way
, the arrangment of Reptile for two "one note at a time" 12 strings and one
voice is just as enjoyable as the original.

There was new material too.  The two covers, Ritz and Cortez The Killer were
both rivetting.  I hope they record these two in the form we heard them.
Cortez was particularly well played, with Marty making good use of his volume
pedal.  As he lost himself in the sound, he was striking the weirdest, most
undignified pose I've ever seen him in !  It looked like a particularly
obscure Tai-Chi position (the "Partial Amputee Stork" springs to mind), and
his constant twitching reminded me of a victim of Parkinsons Disease.  But you
know that a man is truly wrapped in his craft when doesn't care how he looks.
His music spoke for him, and it spoke volumes.

Marty clearly has a good time on stage.  He grins as Steve forgets the lyrics
to Almost With You; there's nothing sacred here.  He often looked over to
Steve, perhaps trying to make sure they were in sync etc.  but more often
than not Steve's eyes were closed.  He played most of the songs with closed
eyes...makes it difficult to photograph him !

While Marty strode the stage, strolling to the stage edge so every guitarist
in the front row could desperately try to distill the essence of how the hell
he was making that gorgeously rich sound, Steve was rock steady at the mike,
strumming and singing while Marty decorated and thickened the sound.  Steve's
emotions mostly ranged from "standing at the back strumming with eyes closed"
to "standing at the mike and strumming with eyes close".  I don't know whether
it's my place to say this, but I'm worried about him.  I couldn't see any
enjoyment of his skills in his performance or his demeanor afterwards.  In the
many brief snippets of conversation I had with him there was always an air of
tiredness, a pervasive weariness.  When he "zombie-walked on stage" for the
third encore on the second night, I don't think he was joking.
This is not to say that the performance was flat.  He conveyed strong emotions
in a few places, notably throughout a shortened version of "My Little Problem"
and "The Night Is Very Soft", which was brilliantly eerie.  But I still think
he's not looking at all happy.  And this was the first two nights of an
Australian tour !  How's he going to feel after a few more weeks ?!

Enough generalising, let's get into the nitty gritty that makes this mailing
list fun !  I was there with Matthew Green, his lovely wife Monica, my brother
Keith and our friend Daniel Szuc, who enjoyed his very first Church concert "a
lot more than I thought I would."

Marty was playing his 12-string Takamine, but I don't know what kind Steve's
was.  Steve sipped orange juice and bottled water, while Marty enjoyed a
stubby of Victoria Bitter (that's a small bottle of beer to the rest of the
world).  Marty ran through a volume pedal both nights.  On the second night he
used an Overdrive, into a Super Overdrive.  I spoke to Mark (guitarist in the
support act; and a pretty damn good one at that) and he said that Marty told
him he was using those because "...otherwise it'd just be a folk gig !"

First was "Ritz", which as I said above, deserves recording.  I mean *studio*
recording, not "hide the Walkman in your pocket" recording ! :)
This was followed by Shadow Cabinet, after which I was thinking "Now ! Now !
Ask the audience about the Web page NOW !"  But it didn't happen....
Tristesse was next, which came out well as a softened down arrangement.  The
harmonies on "Ah..." as in "Ah...water's in flame.  Ah...fires burning down"
were particularly cool.


Providence was the next piece, and was one of several in which Marty's solo
was stunning.  The richness of a chiming 12-string in his hands has to be
heard.

Almost With You was the next song, followed by "Watching Us" from Marty's next
album, "Hanging Out In Heaven".  When I asked Zoe, Marty's wife, whether it was about her,
she said "Well...it's about *us*."  Doh !  I walked into that one !

I don't know the title of the next one, but one of the lines goes "Just can't
help wondering / It's such a waste of time."  The chorus went "That's the
blues man / That's the big town / That's the rebound / That's the comedown".
Can someone Name That Tune ? 
[Hindsight note: It's Comedown, off the Magician Among the Spirits album]

Before the next song began, Steve asked us what was for dinner, then chastised
us for being cruel to whatever it was we'd eaten.  When someone called out
that they'd had yogurt for desert, Steve replied "Don't you know that bacteria
can recognize their young ?"

Mistress was next, and on the second night Steve changed the words a bit.
Most of you won't like this......instead of "..all too much for your poor
little head" he sang "..all too much for your poor American head !"  Well, I
laughed, and looked straight back at Monica (who is American), who looked a bit stunned !

Next song was Hotel Womb, in which Marty once again let rip on the solo.  At
times it looked like he was trying to strangle his guitar !  He was well into
it, which was a real delight to watch.  The crowd cheered him on as the
intensity built, which is fun to be a part of.  There seemed to be a real
feedback there, with Marty letting the audience's energy push him harder.

A shortened rendition of My Little Problem, ending before "Some people don't
come over because of the problem." had Steve really leaning into the song.
This one definitely means something special to him; there was an intensity
that was missing from the other songs.

NSEW was the next one, and Marty played the descending main
lick/riff/hook/whateveryoucallit.  But he played it at the head of the guitar,
ie down an octave so as to advantage of the open notes.  It's nice to know
there's some things he *can't* do :) I think it was in this song on the second
night where he couldn't get his hand where he wanted it to go, and as the song
ended he joked "That's what the world needs: more frets !"

I noticed that his tremelo action, noted for it's speed and accuracy takes two
forms.  The "Big" version sees the wrist stiff and his whole arm pumps up and
down, pivoting at the shoulder.  The "small" version is all wrist.  I also
noticed he has HUGE hands.  He was doing barre chords (on a 12-string,
remember) where a noticeable portion of the first and third joints were not
touching the fret board.  His middle finger was even bigger; I guess he must
eat all his vegetables.

----Digression Begins-----
(Apologies to my Mum, who is a dynamite cook !)
Which brings me neatly to another tangent.  I had dinner at my table next to
the stage.  Upon opening the menu and reading it, I remarked to my brother
that the menu had *definitely* been written by my mother !  For an entree I
could have

(1) smoked salmon or
(2) Lentil and vegetable soup (Mum: "But this is *nice* vegetable soup.)

For main course I could have
(1)Baby trout (Mum: "This is *nice* trout; no bones.  You'll like it !)
(2)Braised Vegetables (Mum: "There a nice sauce with it, you won't taste them)
(3)Lamb Shanks, *Brussel Sprouts !!!* and mashed pumpkin (Mum: I cooked them
differently today...you'll like them !)

Sorry to digress, but I *hate* all those meals.  If they'd given me a good
burger and chips it'd have made my night !  But back to the concert !

----Digression Ends-----

10 000 Miles was the next song, followed by the eerie version of The Night Is
Very Soft.  The crowd were stony silent as the intimacy of this song was
played out.  The right note, in the right place can send chills, as can a soft
low, rough voice and these were all there.

After this song, while the guitars were being tuned again, a lot of requests
came in from the audience.  Steve let it go on for a while, then said "Richard
and Peter will be here next week doing those."  "Where's Peter ?" asked
someone, to which Steve replied "At home watching Channel 3."  We don't have a
Channel 3 in Melbourne; maybe it's a Sydney thing.

Under The Milky Way was next, with Marty playing with a capo on the fifth
fret.  See my transcription on the Web page if you're not sure how this comes
into play.

The next song was a real surprise to me: Reptile !  It was only a couple of
days before that I'd read a report where somebody asked for Reptile to be
played and Steve asked how the Hell they were supposed to play Reptile with
two acoustic guitars. (Am I remembering that right ?)  Anyway, they must have
thought it through and the result was an almost classical sounding
arrangement, with no chords in the verses.  But chords were played in the
chorus, with Steve using a third fret capo to simplify it (Em D C is much
easier than Gm F Eb).  This one was a crowd favourite, drawing loud applause
as it started and even more when it finished.

They left the stage to thunderous applause and ear-splitting whistling from
the hero behind me. Steve asked him to shut up twice, but...ah, don't get me started on him.

The first encore was Grind, in which Marty was very confident.  He wasn't
afraid to go for a complex run where a simple one would have sufficed, even
when Steve wasn't backing him up.  I was really impressed by that.

Myrrh was next, with another ripper solo section from Marty, featuring plenty
of tremolo.  It's hard to bend strings on a 12 string and keep them in tune,
but Marty showed how it was done.

Then they did Lost, with lovely harmony on the word "Lost" in the chorus.
Steve changed the words a little, saying "Everyone in Footscray probably feels
like that too."  Footscray is a Melbourne suburb with high unemployement and
all the problems that go with that.

A song which I'm guessing was called "Life's A Gas" was next. I'm told that 
Marc Bolan wrote that one.

The last song was the highlight of the first night: Cortez The Killer.
Steve's emotive vocals were brilliantly enhanced by Marty's adornments.  The
Takamine was running through the volume pedal, plus another Boss unit
(couldn't tell what kind).  The use of the volume pedal caused an effect much
like that in the "Draconian wind unforetold" section of Destination.  You cut
the volume to nothing, strike the note, then bring it up again.  Marty did so,
and rapidly twitched the volume pedal; it sounded like a harmonica at times.
It was during this song that Marty went into another world, coaxing feedback,
harmonics, swells and a host of wonderful sounds from his guitar.  For those
who've seen them perform this song, I hope they did it like that for you.  On
the second night as this section was building something technical went wrong,
Marty shrugged towards the sound booth, and the song was over.  I think the
volume pedal was at fault because as he began twitching it I heard crackling,
like the kind you get in a cheap stereo's volume slider when dust has got into
the contacts.  He seemed disappointed as they waved goodbye.

Continental Cafe
Melbourne, August 14th

This show was pretty similar to the previous Melbourne concerts, except that
Steve was definitely happier, more lively and "fired up" than the first shows.
I'm glad to say that we don't have to worry about him being tired of performing;
two weeks of touring seems to have done him a world of good !  It's funny what 
being a musician does to you :)

The main point of interest, from my extremely blinkered perspective, was that
 Steve mentioned this Web page !  But it was for the worst of reasons :(  For 
 lying unnoticed in the lyrics section was a major error, now shifted to the 
 "Misheard Lyrics" page for posterity.  In the lyrics for "Authority" we had
 "Larry's our attorney and everyone's stunned" instead of "Letters are returned,
 lovers are spurned."  I changed it straight away when I got Steve's e-mail, 
 but the damage was done.  He commented that it sounded like something he'd 
 write anyway, and even sang it softly while strumming a few chords.

Brian Smith

Last Updated ( Sunday, 19 December 2004 )
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