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Reviews of 2011 USA Tour Print E-mail
Saturday, 26 February 2011

A collection of reviews of the 2011 Future Past Perfect tour, when the band played Untitled #23, Priest=Aura and Starfish each night. What a great show! My wife and I caught them in Boston and had a wonderful night!

...there is little doubt that many a music aficionado have already seen what will be the very best single concert by any band in the year 2011. K.Morton, Highwire Daze


 From the Orange County Register

Once a band is tenacious enough to reach the 30-year mark, its creative output usually slows down significantly. Not the Church. From a steady stream of official albums and solo projects to art and books, members of the influential Australian quartet never stay idle too long.

Last spring, the group’s career milestone was commemorated here by An Intimate Space acoustic tour, with setlists containing a song from every studio release, mainly performed in reverse order. Back Down Under in October, they were inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame (equivalent to NARAS, which oversees the Grammys).

More recently, longtime fans have been able to revel in Second Motion Records’ back-catalog reissue campaign, starting with the first four albums: Of Skins and Heart (1981), The Blurred Crusade (’82), Séance (’83) and Heyday (’86). All were remastered and now include rare photos and bonus tracks, plus guitarist/singer Marty Willson-Piper’s fascinating liner notes about the Church’s history and recording sessions. The Michigan record label also put out Deep in the Shallows, a double-disc singles compilation. Four subsequent studio releases and a limited edition EP box set are expected in the months ahead.

Next week brings White Magic, lead singer/bassist Steve Kilbey’s second collaboration with Martin Kennedy of Aussie electronic group All India Radio, arrives at music retailers.

And this week the Church launched its Future Past Perfect tour, a month-long electric counterpart to last year’s stripped-down outing, which kicked off Wednesday night at El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles. (As a bonus, everyone in attendance received a free updated mini-souvenir program, something you don’t see very often.)

While other groups might opt to perform an entire album or two over a multiple-night stand, the Church chose to do three in one, each representing a different decade of its existence. “This is a world premiere,” Kilbey announced before the first hour-long set, covering 2009’s hypnotic Untitled #23. “We’ve never done this and never played some of these songs live before.”

“Or will again,” added a noticeably slimmer and better-groomed Willson-Piper, with a mischievous smile.

“Cobalt Blue” opened the nearly four-hour show on an ethereal note and immediately transfixed the seated audience. Willson-Piper quickly moved from one guitar to another and back again. “Deadman’s Hand” found Kilbey and drummer Tim Powles’ lush voices meshing superbly. “Space Saviour,” a slow chugging rocker, had all the musicians gradually building steam before ending in a noisy barrage.

Both Kilbey and Willson-Piper were in jovial moods. When one fan yelled “you kick ass,” the guitarist responded, “we try to do it more delicately these days.”

Tour multi-instrumentalist Craig Wilson provided airy keyboards for the subtle “On Angel Street,” during which Kilbey was quite animated, venturing to the front of the El Rey stage. Joined by female vocalist Tiare Helberg (a regular contributor on Church-related music) and a roadie on extra bass, the sad song “Anchorage” boasted a captivating, full-bodied sound. Kilbey used lyric sheets and dramatically waved them around while singing.

Following an intermission, the Church returned for the second hour-long set, centered on 1992’s Priest=Aura, an esoteric collection that became a band and fan favorite despite modest sales.

This time, the music did all the talking. Audience members that provided polite applause before suddenly cheered loudly after Aura. Fittingly, floating ectoplasm images were projected on the backdrop. Guitarist Peter Koppes’ amazing whammy bar workout amid the triple axe attack on a psychedelic “Ripple” got an equally enthusiastic response (two guys behind me kept yelling “whoa” after every extended guitar solo).

Koppes also shined with some chiming tones and slide work on the poppier “Feel” while Willson-Piper shook his head and had fun while soloing. The cabaret vibe of “Witch Hunt” worked extremely well. A trippy take on “The Disillusionist” saw Kilbey using the lyric sheets again and providing one of the night’s most dramatic deliveries, robustly leading the sea-shanty chorus and ending with a poetic recitation. The crowd gave it a standing ovation.

Gradually unraveling songs are common from the Church. The nearly 10-minute long “Chaos” — all claustrophobic sounds, sinister guitar effects and white noise — truly lived up to its title. Kilbey clutched his face in mock agony and fans cheered wildly. The set concluded with the instrumental “Film,” evoking a late-’80s Goth-rock mood.

Another half-hour intermission elapsed. Then it was time for what many Church followers had anticipated all night: 1988’s Starfish, the band’s biggest-selling album in America. It remains one of their strongest efforts, though Willson-Piper has gone on record with the opposite opinion; he writes that it engulfs you with “pure simplicity” in the tour program.

Kilbey’s understated vocals were nearly whispered during “Destination,” driven by Koppes’ searing leads and Willson-Piper’s inspired playing. The former used a spacey effect in place of the bagpipes on the signature hit “Under the Milky Way,” as the latter guitarist played a beat-up 12-string. The dreamy track still sounded transcendent and unique.

Seeing American currency displayed on the screen for an eerie “Blood Money” reminded me of its expert use in a Miami Vice episode; here, it sounded particularly sharp. The warm jangle enveloping “Lost” featured a brief lyric snatch from Springsteen’s “Backstreets.” Willson-Piper really proved his mettle amid the lightning-fast arpeggios in “North, South, East and West,” dazzling guitar work on the rocking “Spark” (for which he also ably handled lead vocals), an intense “Reptile” and smooth closer “Hotel Womb.”

All told, this was a brilliant show from the Church. Hopefully they’ll film an upcoming tour stop for future DVD release.


 From Highwire Daze

THE CHURCH presents FUTURE PAST PERFECT, The El Rey Theatre, Los Angeles, CA, February 2, 2011

When The Church decides to go on a tour, they certainly do so with a good deal of ambition and sheer artistry. The Future Past Perfect exhibition was almost too good to be true – 3 classic albums would be performed in their entirety, covering each of the decades of the band’s highly prolific existence. A total of 34 songs would be performed each night, an undertaking most groups would definitely shy away from, but one which The Church was able to endeavor with the greatest of ease. Over three hours of music making for one of the most memorable performances by this Australian collective ever! The sold out El Rey patrons were seated, the lights were dimmed, and a night of magic and mysticism would ensue.

The evening started with a live performance of the critically acclaimed Untitled #23 album, their dazzling 2009 effort showing The Church at their most progressive. All 10 songs were performed, opening on a harmonious note with the dynamic Cobalt Blue. Their single Pangaea was a high point that was unleashed to utter perfection.  The live rendition of Anchorage was an absolute triumph, featuring sweet female background vocals and spellbinder musical interludes. Those not familiar with the modern day meanderings of The Church were clearly enchanted by the transfixing sounds emitting from the stage. Untitled #23 is a magical effort on disc, and live it absolutely enfolds the listener into a sonic state of bliss.  Most musicians would be exhausted by the intricacies of conveying such an intensive work and would call it a night. But The Church only took 10 minutes, and would return to the stage rejuvenated and ready for more.

It was time go all the way back to 1992 and revisit the haunting Priest=Aura masterwork, and what a gem of a performance it was! An epic 14 songs were sent out to a very appreciative crowd.  Lead vocalist Steve Kilbey had to refer to printed lyrics sheets a few times, but this only added to the wonderful quirkiness of the evening. Some of the most complex, abstract lyrical insights are to be found within this time period, with opening track Aura being an instant example of the marvels that were to follow. The Disillusionist was an inspired moment, with Kilbey as a possessed beat poet spewing out the most obscure of homilies. And then there was the magnificent Chaos – a magnum opus of a song that transported the entire El Rey Theatre into an even great musical dimension. Another grand work shown tribute, and even greater glories were still was to arrive.

Starfish from 1988 was a gigantic breakthrough for The Church on many different levels. Their most successful effort,  the album spawned a monster hit single with Under The Milky Way that is still heard on radio airwaves all across the world. 10 tracks in all, very much revered by their fans and played to absolute perfection in the final segment of the night. Destination was a pulsating commencement after a break, followed by the sweeping familiarity of Under The Milky Way, which had everyone in the audience singing along. Marty Willson-Piper took on the vocals in the rocking Spark while Peter Koppes delivered a wistful lead for the marvelous A New Season. Kilbey stated there was no encore planned, but Hotel Womb made for an emotional yet cosmic way to end the perfect performance.

The Church remains a tight and magnetic union, featuring Steve Kilbey on lead vocals and bass, Marty Willson-Piper on guitar and vocals, Peter Koppes on guitar and vocals, and Tim Powles on drums. Also assisting as a special guest performer was Craig Wilson, whose wide repertoire included keyboards, guitars, mandolin, and backing vocals.

An informative program was distributed – a definitive keepsake for all attendees of the Future Past Perfect shows. The year may just be starting, but there is little doubt that many a music aficionado have already seen what will be the very best single concert by any band in the year 2011.

(Review by Kenneth Morton)


 From Boston Sun Chronicle

Australian rock group gives marathon concert at Showcase Live

FOXBORO - It was a unique concept that made for a lengthy, but entertaining, concert.

The Church, the alternative rock group out of Australia that had the big 1988 cosmic hit, "Under the Milky Way," played three of their more popular albums cover to cover Friday night at Showcase Live at Patriot Place.

Several rock groups, including Aerosmith and REO Speedwagon, over the past few years have played albums in their entirety, usually to celebrate an anniversary of an LP or CD, and cover bands do so too, but it is unusual to hear multiple albums in one concert.

While the show contained two extended intermissions between the albums and didn't wrap up to just before midnight, the packed house was moved by the performance for the "Future Past Perfect US Tour 2011. Three Decades of the Church in 3 Classic Albums" tour.

Making its second appearance here in as many years, the group kicked off the night with its latest album, "Untitled No. 23." Original members, lead vocalist and bassist Steven Kilbey and guitarists Peter Koppes and Marty Willson-Piper were joined by longtime drummer Tim Powles and a keyboardist.

Rolling Stone Australia gave the new album a five-star review, calling it "a stunningly ambitious album of shimmering rock," and it was clear from start to finish the material is top-notch, with melody and driving beat.

Kilbey played acoustic guitar on "Happenstance," "Space Saviour" was a hard rocker, and guitar play stood out on "On Angel Street." A female backup singer (Tiare Helberg, band co-manager and Marty's girlfriend) appeared for "Anchorage," for which Kilbey sang without his guitar.

The middle album showcased was 1992's "Priest=Aura." Its most popular song is "Ripple," another rocking tune.

Kilbey is quite animated on stage, especially during "The Disillusionist."

He is the main songwriter and his lyrics are usually storytelling and obscure, but intriguing. "Chaos" has a psychedelic ending and "Film" is an instrumental.

Capping the trio of albums was "Starfish," the band's breakthrough album that contains "Under the Milky Way" that placed No. 24 on the music charts and the hit "Reptile." Both had music videos.

Willson-Piper picked up an acoustic for the big hit and sang the pick-me-up "Spark." His guitar riffs opening "Reptile" are captivating.

The album also contains "Destination" and "North, South, East And West" that is critical of Los Angeles where the album was recorded.

The other guitarist, Koppes, sang lead on "A New Season."

"Hotel Womb" ended the show, and there was no time or need for an encore.

Two of the album's songs were used in episodes of the TV show "Miami Vice" - "Under the Milky Way" and "Blood Money."

Before "Starfish," The Church had been an underground Australian act, but it soon was popular with college students and others in the United States.

Further commercial success did not come, however, and the band underwent several lineup changes in the early 1990s. The last decade has seen them settle on their current makeup.

The Church, formed in 1980 in Sydney, Australia, have been pegged as an art and progressive rock band, highly innovative, post punk, new wave, and have been compared to R.E.M. Three of the members recorded as The Reformation in 1997, and the remaining founding members have released several solo projects as well.

Last Updated ( Saturday, 26 February 2011 )
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