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SMH reviews Church at Newtown Print E-mail
Saturday, 10 December 2005
Sydney Morning Herald reviews The Church's performance at Newtown, Dec 2nd 2005. Originally published at

The Church
@Newtown, December 2
Reviewed by Bernard Zuel

One of the '80s contemporaries of the Church, the Smiths, once sang that "I wear black on the outside because black is how I feel on the inside". What are we to make, then, of the Church performing in gleaming - as in guess whose mum's got a Whirlpool? gleaming - all-white?

The answer became obvious, after watching the quartet crack jokes at each other's expense ("Play bass Tim; you play everything else anyway," joshed regular bass player and singer Steve Kilbey of drummer/producer/pianist/backing vocalist Tim Powles during one of many swaps of instruments on stage), smile frequently and generally take a whimsical eye at the world (their most successful songs were introduced with ever-inflated tales of the many "millions" of dollars made).

Twenty-five years into a career that long ago gave up any pretensions to the Top 40 and boasting a line-up with three original members and one newbie, Powles, who has been there a decade, the Church are feeling damn fine. Perky. Persil fresh, you could say.

That freshness infected every song in this quasi-retrospective concert series, which is deliberately taking a break from the expansive mood pieces of their regular show.

You could see from the opening number, the venerable Unguarded Moment done almost as a stately march, through to the encore's exploration of Constant In Opal as a mix of the blues, Patti Smith and even Peter, Paul and Mary, that invention rather than convention was the rule.

With Peter Koppes as often at the piano as at the acoustic guitar, Marty Willson-Piper - who can't completely tone down his flamboyance - nearly as often at the drums and bass as at his acoustic and Powles finding new ways to suggest rather than force rhythms, some of the roots of these songs (English folk, Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan to name but three which don't fit the old stereotype of jingle jangle influences) were happily laid bare. With Kilbey in good sardonic form, the mood matched the performances. That is, they pleased without effort and suggested torpor won't be a factor in a present or future still looking bright. Napisan bright, even.

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