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Bad live review Sydney Tivoli 1988 Print E-mail
Tuesday, 23 February 1988

Andrew Mueller writes an account of a show where too many things went wrong.


Live Review - Tivoli February 2nd 1988
The Church

Without casting doubts on The Church's deserved reputation as one of the most individually (several excellent solo efforts have rcently come from the various members) and collectively creative acts this country has produced, for tonight anyway they were very, very average. A capacity crowd at the Tiv seemed to be divided on the matter - for every malcontent like me, there was at least one screaming enthusiast, but The Church chould have and should have done a lot better.

So what went wrong? It was mainly a group thing - they seemed hell-bent on blasting the quirky subtleties of their music out of existence through tedious rave-up playing and horribly jarring shout-along backing vocals. Guitarist Marty Willson-Piper was the worst offender in both cases, too often falling the wrong side of the thin line that divides the engagingly arrogant showman from the obnoxious poser. Playing the Spinal Tap-type headbanger might be amusing for the first couple of songs, but it tends to wear a bit thin when it becomes apparent tht it's being taken seriously. Still, at least The Cult know who they can call if Billy Diffy ever hurts himself trashing lighting rigs!

Just the basic (and suprising) lack of professionalism in the stage presentation was further disappointment. That a band of The Church's standing should take to a stage without a spare bass is unbelievable - and when Steve Kilbey's bass showed a relctance to stay in tune, it meant that on a couple of occasions, we were all left talking amongst ourselves while something was done about it. I was hhoping that perhaps Peter Koppes or anyone else would do a short spot from their solo records, but the closest we got was a bit of "ambient" guitar improvisation.

Most of the set tonight was taken from a forthcoming new LP, The Milky Way. [SC: The album was called Starfish, but I wonder where Andrew got this name - a guess?] The songs sounded like...well, they sound like The Church. Such was tonight's show that it'll be a bit hard to tell until we get hold of the vinyl. To be fair, Almost With You, Spark and Columbus were all superb songs played brilliantly, though there were only a few selections from tht fabulous Heyday disc.

They saved the real highlight for (second) last, when Kilbey, sounding for a change like something more than Lou Reed an octave up, delivered a stunning rendition of Unguarded Moment, one of the few convincing moments of the night. Unfortunately, they followed this by way of a final encore with a lengthy mess of screams and feedback that was either a woefully incompetent attempt at Sister Ray or just a heap of pretentious art-school drivel they'd dreamed up on their own. No doubt a tremendous wheeze for those on stage, but bored everyone else silly. A couple of minutes before this came to a close, the mild-mannered Mr Kilbey did what I'd been expecting Mr Willson-Piper to do all night, and administered the Townshend treatment to his hapless bass before stalking off. It didn't break, though...

Great band, not-so-great show. It happens.

Andrew Mueller
On The Street

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