Bluebird, Denver


October 17th 1998

Bob Claasen
Last night I saw the Church in Denver, and all I can say is "Wow!" I'd been reading the great reports here on this web page, but I wondered if possibly the shows had been overhyped by hardcore fans. That wasn't the case. I've probably seen about a hundred concerts in my life, and I'd rank this one in the top three.

Here's the set list. 1. Aura 2. Myrrh 3. Interlude 4. NSEW 5. Ripple 6. Old Flame 7. Louisiana 8. Hotel Womb 9. Grind 10. Tranquillity 11. Buffalo 12. Day of the Dead 13. Milky Way 14. Two Places 15. Almost with You 16. Reptile Encores: 17. Destination 18. Tantalized 19. You Took

Marty was really animated throughout the show, especially the last five or six songs. Tantalized was unbelievable. What awesome guitar riffs. Marty ended up laying on his back just absolutely jamming. Tim and Steve were looking at him almost in disbelief. Then there was You Took. I think it must have lasted fifteen or twenty minutes. At one point Peter and Marty smashed their guitars together, resulting in some weird sounding effects and a broken string on Marty's guitar. He later yanked the remaining strings out during a manic jam towards the end of the song. At the very end, after Steve and Peter had already left the stage, Marty threw his guitar down on top of the drum kit, and started tipping the drums over. Tim did a somersault-flip over the front of the demolished drum set in order to leave the stage. Rock and roll, baby!

This concert was a perfect example of why live music is better. The drums sounded much more upfront than on the studio recordings, and the guitars had more "edge" to them (for lack of a better word). In general, the live sound was much more rocking and less atmospheric than their studio sound. Marty was very spontaneous and adventurous which added an edge of excitement to everything. If only I had a tape of this show (grovel, grovel), I would play it to everyone who thinks I'm some kind of weirdo for collecting bootlegs. It all makes sense once you listen to the music. Wow!


Trace
The Church played a late show at the Bluebird, the doors not opening until after 9:30 pm. The show started at a little after 10:00, with the opening four-piece band, Space Team Electra. They're from the Denver area, and they set the mood perfectly with echoes of The Church, some Cocteau Twins, Souixie and the Banshees and Sky Cries Mary. The female singer, who is also one of the guitarists, and the other fellow on the guitar created some very Church-like resonances between them. One highlight was a very morphined-out space version of the Stones's "Paint It Black." Four other original tunes completed their set, building in tempo to their last two sonic smashes. The atmosphere of their set reminded me a lot of the two previous times I'd seen the Church, though with more energy, and I felt like they were giving the Church quite a bit to live up to -- which they did, and then some!

Space Team Electra played about forty minutes and quickly cleared off the stage. The small venue filled up with a great size crowd (I'm horrible at estimating numbers, but it seemed packed!). Soon the house lights went out, and the space radio transmissions that lead off "Hologram of Baal" began. I was sure that the set lists I've seen posted at this site were wrong, that the show was going to begin with "Anaesthesia," not "Aura." But by the time the band took the stage, flooded by deep blue lights, the sound effects had ended, and they started with "Aura." The entire show followed the posted set list exactly, which was fine by me, with one great surprise. The show was very tight, very energetic, and the guys seemed to be having a great time both with the crowd and with each other. The two previous times I've seen the Church -- the _Starfish_ tour back in Austin, TX, and _Gold Afternoon Fix_ in Denver -- had been pretty big disappointments; the band seemed uncomfortable and the sound mixes were awful, particularly at the _GAF_ show, where I was sure that Kilbey had blown out his voice during "Grind"! But this time around everything came together just fine.

There was an early scare during the second song, "Myrrh," when it became apparent that Marty's amp/stage monitor wasn't working and he couldn't hear what he was playing. He was visibly annoyed and frustrated. This led to a rather extended pause and the most stage patter I've heard from the Church. Steve asked Peter, "Has the Ecstasy started coming on?" ( I don't know if Steve was joking, but Peter did seem particularly smiley all night!) Peter didn't really reply to that, played around with some noises on his guitar and talked into the mike for a while ... but so softly that I couldn't hear what he was saying. Here was THE silent guy from the Church, performing an extended monologue, and I couldn't hear him! Space Team Electra ended up loaning Marty an amp, and the band got right back into it, smiles all around.

The show was tight from the beginning, though it seemed that with each song the band got better and better. I can barely even pick out highlights from the list, the show was so great, but I remember being particularly impressed by: "Hotel Womb," which I'm usually not too fond of; the surprise of hearing "Tranquility" (which I haven't noticed posted up on the site as having been played at previous shows), a new favorite; and all the selections from _Priest=Aura_ and _Heyday_, my favorite Church albums. Great to hear Marty sing on "Two Places At Once," as well, though I would loved to have heard "Russian Autumn Heart."

The last hour or so of the show, including the two encores, was mind-blowing. After "Two Places At Once," they paused, and Steve didn't even offer his usual, obligatory, "Thank you," as they kicked into "Almost With You" with a vengeance. The rest of the show was played with such energy that I caught myself entertaining the fantasy that the band would end up playing all night. What a rush! They ended "Reptile" with a smash, took a quick break, and came back for the first encore. "Tantalized" was splendid with its extended Marty-ized intro and ended with Marty, Peter, and Steve throwing their guitars on top of the drum kit before exiting the stage.

Then Steve took the stage by himself, started messing around a bit with the intro to "You Took," when Marty came on and pretended to worship Steve with raised arms and bows. Peter and Tim joined the crew and the song started in earnest. This song was as furious and fantastic as all I'd read about had led me to believe -- Marty ran all over the stage, trotted over to Peter and, after a short bit of them playing to each other, they began shoving each other with their guitars, creating quite the racket. Peter played with the broken strings on Marty's guitar with a look of boyish delight ("Ah, look what I did to your pretty guitar!") Then, still guitar-to-guitar, Peter pushed Marty away from him. Marty reacted with some exaggeration, falling to the stage and playing from there for quite awhile. After things settled down a bit, Steve finished up the lyrics and let the others go at it again. Peter had his back to us and was rubbing the strings of his guitar against an amp casing, while Marty went nuts ripping the strings from his guitar. He had a fan hold the guitar for him while he took another guitar from a guy offstage, then lay the de-stringed guitar at Steve's feet and began working away at the new one. When things had totally noised out, Steve set his guitar in its stand, and headed off, patting Marty on the back on the way out. Peter continued rubbing his guitar against the amp for some time, then left it there and exited. Marty played for a couple of more minutes with only Tim, then dropped his guitar onto the drums. This didn't seem to have the desired effect, so he actively pulled down a cymbal stand and dislocated a tom and the bass drum. As Marty was stepping back, Tim stood up and took a tumble over his bass drum, sending it flying while he somersaulted to the stage floor and exited to wild cheers from all! What a show! Two-and-a-half hours of total bliss.

I, my wife, and two good friends -- all totally high on the fantastic show -- braved the cold October night to wait around with several other fans around back of the theater. About 2:15 am or so, Steve came out. He looked kind of annoyed to see us there, and I thought he was going to walk on past, but some guy ran up to him with a ticket stub to sign, while I was asking if he'd sign some stuff. He said, "Sure, why not." I had him sign the "Techromancers" page from the _Earthed_ book, where he wrote, "To Trace, Love Steve." I think I said something like, "The show was fucking brilliant," to which he replied, "I'm glad you liked it." (What a stimulating dialogue, huh?) Then I had to move out of the way for other people, but I noticed my wife pointing out that Marty had appeared. I handed off "Priest=Aura" for her to have Steve sign while I walked over to Marty. Apparently, he noticed her holding "Earthed" and asked if she wanted that signed, but she said that he'd already signed if for her husband. He said, "Oh, it's good to know that some people around here are married."

Marty was standing by the stage door, and we were first to his side, holding out my copy of _Spirit Level_, and asking him if he'd sign next to "Melts My Heart." It was pretty dark, and he requested that we move near under this light high up on a nearby office building; but the light was motion-sensitive and on a weird timer, and as he neared it, I heard someone say, "It'll probably go out right when he gets there." Sure enough. Marty looked perplexed, "What's going on here?" I jumped around like a goof trying to get the light to come back on, but it wouldn't so we took up our original space by the door. Leah joined us. Marty wrote in the white space right above the extinguished candle, "To Trace and Leah, Love Marty Willson-Piper," and then, proceeded to read through the entire lyric (not out loud!). I almost asked him to read out loud, but I didn't want to disturb what seemed to be a nice chill-out time for him; besides, it was pretty neat just knowing that he was reading my disc jacket! I then asked him to sign my copy of "Priest=Aura," which I told him was my favorite Church album, with a gold ink pen. On the inside jacket, he signed, "To Trace, Love to You, Marty Willson-Piper." I would so have loved to convey how meaningful "Spirit Level" and "Priest=Aura" are to me, but how to do that in such a crowded, rushed scene?!?

The band's van -- a red one -- had pulled up and I knew they were about to split. I finally saw Peter leaving the building and went running after him to get him to sign "Priest=Aura." He was engaged in dialogue with a fellow Aussie from the crowd, and he barely acknowledged me. He signed the front cover of the disc jacket, but unfortunately I wasn't able to interrupt and explain that the gold ink needed to go on the black part of the cover; he signed right over the pyramid and the gold-on-silver is almost impossible to read! There's a faint message, "Love, Peter ..." and it's either his last name or a bunch of xxxxx's? Ah, well, kind of a fitting signature from one of the more enigmatic band members!

The band had loaded up in the van, and as we were walking off, I turned back to see Steve in the front passenger's seat, rolling up the window. I waved and yelled, "Thanks a lot, guys," and he looked me in the eyes and saluted his farewell.

My final impression is that the Church displayed a lot of integrity. I know that they don't have the massive numbers of fans of some bands, but I'm glad to know that they're still out there making excellent music, playing great, energetic shows, seem to be having fun individually and as a band, and will take the time to make some contact with their fans. It's nice to know that they had such a great turn-out for an album that's gotten almost no radio play. And somehow, it's nice to know that they're still willing to trek around the country in a van!


Cathy Smith
After standing outside for half an hour watching traffic on Colfax on a 42 degree night (many of us saw the wrong ad information regarding the concert's start time), the inside of the Bluebird Theater was a welcome site. We planted ourselves in the front of the section which is eye level with the band on stage, maybe 20-25 feet away and our extraordinary musical adventure began:

Space Team Electra opened, and though they started out a bit mellow for those of us anxiously awaiting the rumored sound force awaiting us, they ended up being quite good. Sort of a mix of Dead can Dance, Coctaue Twins and Souxie (feel free to edit my spelling at any time). The Church came out at 11:00 pm, opening with Aura and played until nearly 1:30 am, including 2 encores! I do believe I was standing in one of the best spots in the house because Steve was straight ahead, at eye level and looked to be singing right at me (as if he could see ANYONE against the glare of the stage lights...).

Though I do not recall the exact play list, it was very close to that mentioned in the San Francisco review I read with one notable difference: They played Tranquility and let me just say Tranquility ROCKED! This was the first time I'd seen them live and I was so pleasantly surprised at how the sound and energy of each song just completely surpassed any of their recordings I've heard not that the recorded versions are lacking, but this concert was amazing! Marty was so charismatic, interacting with the other band members and the crowd, laying on his back while strumming madly and snapping strings...What a performance. We stuck around afterwards and met the band outside. I felt pretty silly about it, because I really wanted to sincerely thank them all for such a stunning musical experience and make them understand that it was literally one of THE best concerts I have ever been to, but all I could say was "Hey thanks, Marty! great show!" But I figure they've heard a lot of thanks and praise along the road this tour. I'm kicking myself today because I thought of a very special tape I could have had the guys sign, but alas. I have the memories.

I woke up this morning with Old Flame and Ripple sort of alternating and intertwining in my head. My throat was sore from cheering and my cheeks tired from grinning all night. If I ever have the opportunity to see them again, I am jumping on it and would advise any fan to do the same!
-cathy


Mike
EEEE-OOOOHHH - MY GOD!!!!!

Last night's show was incredible ... i'm still suffering wonderfully. i should have stopped after wine glass #6 ... but i was just soooo amped from getting to see the band in my hometown that i just didn't realize how much i'd had to drink. First off, i wanted to say that i really enjoyed meeting with everyone before the show and i wished that we'd had more time to hang out and talk, particularly with the cute girls that Al was sitting with ... heh ... okay ... so i'm married .... but i'm not dead ... and i'll always be a sucker for smart-looking brunettes! anyway, i'd never met any other church fanatics before yesterday and suddenly running into a roomful of them was more than my wine-addled brain could process. but i had a lot of fun, gang, and i'm glad that you were all able to make it into town reasonably unscathed!

the opening band, Space Team Elektra was a very pleasant surprise. i had seen them play a few times at a bar around the corner from my old place in Denver, and liked them but they have really matured! references to the Cure (with a female fronter) would not be far off. their guitar sound was very atmospheric (along the production lines of Daniel Lanois) and complemented the Church very well.

now when the Church came on, the place erupted. i was surprised at my reaction since i'd just seen them in San Fran. perhaps it was easier to get excited about this show since it was in familiar territory and i wasn't scared about anything going wrong. it must have been a tense virginal thing the first time ... heh.

anyway, the big high point for me was that i was expecting that they would play the same set-list ... but after Grind and before Buffalo they played a beautiful rendition of Tranquility!!!!!

earlier in the show, one of Marty's amps had crapped out, so Peter, of all people, stepped in and started conversing with the audience! considering his notorious shyness, i never would have expected that. being right in front of him, i couldn't make out much of what he was saying - perhaps someone else caught it and could transcribe it? but ultimately there was a great deal of interplay between the 2 guitarists as they talked a great deal to each other (further dispelling the myth of their mutual dislike for one another). marty also smoked several ciggies on stage ... though there may be some worth to the theory that he's not smoking tobacco ... he did seem to enjoy himself more and more as the concert progressed ... but then i don't know much about marty! they even finished the set with Marty throwing his guitar on to Tim's drum kit and then Peter following suit by doing the same. during the first encore marty and peter even chased each other across stage, butting their guitar necks against each other and laughing a great deal. At the end of a scorching (and particularly lengthy) version of "You Took" for the 2nd encore (the whole set went from 11pm to about 1:35 - they honestly didn't seem to want to leave ... but then maybe that's just a Denverite's take on it ... heh!) Marty repeated the guitar throw and then proceeded to dismantle Tim's drum kit by grabbing the kick drum and pulling it to the front of the stage. As it was, Tim had to take a bit of a rolling tumble to get out from behind his wrecked kit .... he seemed a bit irked after the show ... perhaps this had something to do with it.

meeting them afterwards was wonderful!!!!! they were so nice ... i thanked Peter for playing Tranquility and told him that it sounded great ... he gave his modest "you really think so?" reply ... i was trying to remember to ask about the european dates ... but my mind was just in such a state of mental chaos that i was amazed that i could form the words "please" and "thank you". i just love this band ... being a musician tech-head, i rarely enjoy concerts because i'm always busy mentally dissecting the band's equipment, stage techniques and songwriting styles. but with them i am transported back to teenage years where i can just be a pure fan!!!

one tech note, to play Louisiana, Marty had a capo barred at the fifth fret (i think, i was looking across the stage) and Peter's was barred at octave/12th fret.

okay ... i'll cut this rambling short for the sake of the list (yes, i could write much more ... i am still in awe of the experience) ... but again it was wonderful to meet all of you who made it and hopefully we won't have to wait another 8 years to get the chance to meet up again!

mike


Brian Beckmann
Wow!
Probably one of many Denver reviews; the venue was much better than expected, pretty much sold-out from what I could see. The band opened with Priest=Aura with Pete midi-triggering the 'swelled' strings intro--fantastic, no sound problems from what I could tell; audience went crazy from the start. I think they stuck to the setlist from the other shows with the exception of the inclusion of 'Tranquility'---already my favourite from HOB, which came off beautifully, I was hoping they would do this song but didn't really think they could pull it off live due to the myriad, interwoven guitar parts.

Only lyric change I noticed was SK's changing one line of the chorus to: "talking to her rainbows, chasing her animals" (intended?) Marty's behavior was over the top, more manic than I'd heard or expected, a lot of guitar abuse, drum abuse with Marty dropping one of his Ricks on Tim's kit (DRUMkit, hee-hee) pulling Tim's drums off the riser and Tim flipping over the top of his toms and following them to the ground. The schmoozing followed after the show, but they were obviously knackered, I had Steve sign my Starfish tour shirt and he wrote "KICK ME" Steve Kilbey, X

I guess I'll still wear it though. I'm really glad I caught the flight to Denver that morning and for my wife's support of me feeding my 'Church obsession'. I also have to send out a hello to Paul Vasquez and Tony Nelson, good lads; enjoyed the beer and it's good to have faces to put with the names.

Brian Beckmann


David
We got in the venue, and I was pleasantly surprised. There was not a bad seat/spot in the place. It reminded me of a place called the Will Rogers theatre in Oklahoma city, but they sold good beer!

After the long drive, the change in venues, the change in show times, and the cold, not to mention fatigue, I was beginning to wonder if this would be worth it. My attitude would soon change.

I had been a spiritual/virtual fan (if you will) for 10 years. I have never seen live footage, never heard a bootleg, and never talked to anyone who saw them in concert, matter of fact, I'm the only Church fan I know. I only vaguely remember the UTMW video from many years ago, and I was just getting into good music at that age. So basically, I was walking in blind. The power of the albums have kept me listening over the years.

As they came on it was was amazing and surreal. A 10 year long dream was finally materializing. It's not every day you get to do that. I suddenly reflected on all the moments that I had shared with Church albums, late at night, on long drives, during romantic situations, etc. Since the show, I've read through the past few days of the Seance digest, I've noticed something. Most of the people who have been posting have waited a long long time to see their first show, or they've been a church fan for an even longer period of time. I've also noticed that there are many people who have traveled great distances to attend. A very assertive, deep, and devoted group of fans!

I noticed right off that they sounded like shit! I was used to that at most concerts, but they sounded especially bad. Most bands sound bad during the first song, until the sounds guys get everything tweaked out(depending on the venue/crew/sound system of course). About half way through the song, everything seemed to clear up perfectly. It was like night and day. If you don't believe me, talk to some sound guys, or become conscious of the sound for the first few moments at concerts. There's always a few minutes of mayhem before it all comes together.

The third song was ripple. I have seen a shit load of concerts through the years of bands of all sorts of genres and styles. I have never been turned on, woken up, amazed, had my attention drawn, whatever you want to call it by a drummer before, but the energy that Tim was expressing during that song overshadowed everything that the other guys were doing at that moment. I've read the recent drummer threads and heard all the praises for the other guys. I have not heard much of Tim on record. I do have Sometime Anywhere, but I don't like it very much because of the very generic drum machine sounding drums on some songs. (An aside-I found "Eastern" to be a hidden gem though). I also haven't heard any of the other guys live. So I can't really compare, but I think anyone who says Tim doesn't add to the band, or isn't as good should open their ears, and not their mouths.

After the first few songs Marty's amp or at least a speaker cabinet crapped out. It seemed to me that he borrowed one from the opening act. Which he later praised (in appreciation for the favor)

My highpoints were Hotel Womb, Destination, NSEW, Reptile, Grind, Aura and of course UTMW. I have to agree with someone else's post who asked the question, Why do they play it anymore if they are not going to put emotion and effort into it? UTMW was the only thing that I thought was less than I expected. I can understand their sentiments. I'd be sick of it by now too.

Does anyone know what that device Peter had in his hand during his solo for UTMW. I've been playing guitar for 10 years, and I've never seen anything like that. It was like it was vibrating or radiating, causing sound to come through the pickups. He was not picking, it did not look like to me.

You've all seen the setlists, so I won't bore you with that. I was disappointed that Russian autumn heart, or You're still beautiful was not played....and come to think of it dissapointment either. *grins*

From where I was standing I could see backstage on the left side just barely, and for some odd reason there was an alarm clock with a very large LCD display. I could very clearly see that the show started at 11:10PM. I was rather annoyed to be reminded of the reality of time throughout several instances during the show. They played over a solid 2 hours.

I really could have done without the extended tearing up of a Rickenbacker guitar though. It was really a little bit too mindless, Marty just went on and on making all sorts of noises, creating feedback, pulling on the strings trying to break them, etc. Steve eventually walked off stage, giving up on the "jam." Peter a few minutes later. Then the Rick was thrown down on the drums, and Tim came tumbling down over them.

The show was one of the best concerts I've ever been to. I'd put it up there with Robert Plant, Blues Traveler, Extreme, Santana, Black Crowes, or Pink Floyd. Some of you may laugh at this, but I saw Extreme right before they broke up, and swore that it was musically one of the best concerts that I had ever seen. I was amazed at how long the Church played, the material they played, and the 2 encores. I didn't realize how animated Marty was. He put on an excellent show. Steve stared straight into the audience as most have reported. I also didn't realize how well the 2 guitarists compliment each other. They are layered so so well - Brilliance. In reference to past and possible future breakups, I don't know why they would want to go on without that full mix.

*tidbits* I did see someone from the audience hand Marty a "cigarette." Marty also seemed to be a little drunk by the end of the show. I saw him bring a small bottle of liquor with him on one of the encores, and pour it into a styrofoam cup.

Bottom line: They were much better in concert than they are on album. That's pretty hard for me to say since I've listened to them so many times on album in almost a spiritual sense. They were just so much more lively and entertaining.


Violette, in response to David's comment about not hearing Russian Autumn Heart.
I was lucky enough, however, to be able to mention that to Marty backstage (about RAH), have him look up brightly and sing the chorus to me. It's not quite the same, but ...

It's a memory I will treasure forever.


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