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Review of Boston concert April 2004 from amplifier magazine Print E-mail
Thursday, 01 April 2004
Originally published by at The Church
The Paradise Rock Club, Boston, MA
By Bob Mallon

Nostalgia Trip? Hardly. If the current crop of VH1-brokered '80s reunion shows are the first thing that come to mind when you hear "The Church," it is probably time to start paying attention again. Although the band hit its commercial peak 15 years ago with Starfish, these four Aussies have been recording and touring relentlessly ever since. With two of their most adventurous albums (After Eveything, Now This and Forget Yourself) released in the last several years, the Church have reached another musical peak almost a quarter century into their career.

The boys from Bondi Beach brought their latest road show to the Paradise in Boston on a recent Tuesday night. A quick glimpse at the crowd showed that both a steady core of loyal fans and a decent cadre of younger recruits were in attendance.

The Church have aged gracefully, with Steve Kilbey's whitening beard the only sign of distance from their glory days as alternative-radio darlings. Singer Kilbey, whose warm baritone provides the band's signature sound, remained as cryptic as ever, reserving the stage banter to a few outlandish introductions of his band mates. Dueling guitarists Marty Willson-Piper and Peter Koppes split the stage around Kilbey, complementing each other's trademark playing with graceful solos and rhythmic leads. Drummer Tim Powles, who has also produced the band's recent output, anchored the rhythm section in addition to singing backup on many tracks.

The majority of the show was lifted from the new Forget Yourself, an album that stays true to the band's somewhat heavier live sound. Songs such as the opening "Sealine" and the epic "Song in Space" translated especially well, offsetting the band's atmospheric tone with impressive guitar wankery. The warped strumming that accompanied "The Theater and Its Double" was a highlight, along with welcome vocal turns from Koppes and Willson-Piper on "Chromium" and "Appalatia." Classic tracks, such as the psychedelic "Destination" and the surging "Tantalized" rounded out the two-hour set.

The sound at the Paradise was somewhat plagued, as Kilbey's singing was occasionally lost in a wash of feedback. Willson-Piper also had to salvage the crowd-favorite "Reptile" by singing the hook when his guitar went on the fritz. These glitches were offset by surprises, such as when the cellist from opener Sea Ray joined the Church for the gorgeous new ballad "Maya." The crowd also reacted ecstatically when the band ripped through the early '80s gem "You Took" as the closing encore.

If there was anything lacking onstage in Boston, it may have been a measure of overt enthusiasm. While no one expects the now fortysomething Church to jump around like young punks, the affair had a bit of a subdued tone. To be honest, this fits in perfectly with the majority of the band's canon, which tends toward the melancholy and the disaffected. And after 25 years and almost as many albums, I suppose this band has earned the right to take their audience home in whatever way they see fit.
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