The cold and snow of Stockholm winter must be a dramatic shift from the summer Australian heat, and after a 3-1/2 week break from touring one might have expected a cold start. Not so, however: the show was energetic and powerful, while the venue provided a special intimacy.
Sacrificing the MiniDisc I had planned to make of the show (even the limiter-compressor couldn't make sense of the aural onslaught of stage front and center!) was worth it to just watch them play so close up. I've seen the Church play many times in the US and Australia; while I think the best ever was Melbourne at The Palace (lighting, sound, the special 'reunion/goodbye' vibe in the air) 1996, what struck me about last night's show was something far different--something in not only the musicians but also in the music. I realised how 'good' the Church are, how far they have come. Whether it is the fundamental confidence of age plus experience combined with skill/genius, or repetition, or whatever ... there is a solidity and 'professionalism' in their playing ... probably as this is the first time they'd had to 'grind it out' on tour in a long time.
I was similarly struck for some reason by the contrast between 'older' and
'newer' material. Even the layers of UTMW and Myrrh seemed sparse compared to the more developed soundscapes painted by songs like Tranquility and Buffalo; Day of the Dead (which has never grabbed me before) was incredible, trancelike and mesmerising. There was not a lot of stage banter or audience interaction.
Set list and (some) comments: AURA - I love this song as an opener but hate the fact that the song is consistently maimed as sound men tweak the sound system
MYRRH - beautiful as ever
ANAESTHESIA - really good sound live, different from the CD (duh!) and altered arrangement (or was it a mistake ...) particularly the impact of Steve's bass booming in at the 2nd verse
NORTH SOUTH EAST WEST - guitar pyrotechnics galore but I find this song a bit tired to be honest
RIPPLE - wow
OLD FLAME - I found this short song one of the best of the night ... very tight, elegant playing
LOUISIANA - a little Steve and Tim ditty before the feedback intro. This song was one where I appreciated how far they have developed the guitar layers/counterpoints. Brilliant.
HOTEL WOMB - a personal fave
GRIND - enjoyed this one, surprisingly as it ain't a fave
TRANQUILITY - Steve sang this one particularly well and again I was impressed by the musical development here
BUFFALO - ditto above, really well-performed
DAY OF THE DEAD - see above comments, but again: it took me there
UTMW - well ... it was UTMW
TWO PLACES AT ONCE - Very special to have Steve and Marty trading vocals
ALMOST WITH YOU - They can play this one in their sleep but it still packed a lot of punch, Peter's buzzsaw solo was great
REPTILE - Marty cranked up his amp on the solo and my ears are still ringing
DESTINATION - Steve joked a bit with the front row. Someone had given him a note that read something like "We love you Steve ... AURA + LOVE ... Tack så mycket (which means 'Thanks so much'). He tucked it under his effects unit which I thought was special.
TANTALISED - long long long long long long intro, the band were really into
this, just enjoying the vibe I think.
YOU TOOK - a really interesting interpretation with Marty and Tim doing some almost techno/dance inspired riffs together (alternating blasts of distortion with clean playing). At one point it was just Steve's bass and vocals and Tim's drums. A strong ending.
AN INTERLUDE had been struck off the list ... I think it was to go after NSEW?. I caught up with the band after the show and spent some time with Tim, whom I had never met. What a charming lad! We chatted about the production of HOB and the perils of laundry on the road (see Shadow Cabinet reference). He said they felt a bit rusty; I didn't think it showed at all. Steve was clean shaved and sporting a neo-50s slicked back hairstyle with sideburns (and seemed a bit irritable) .. but he was surrounded by his Stockholm friends. I didn't get a chance to speak with Peter. Marty and I caught up quickly before and after the show; he said they were excited to be doing the European tour and were all a bit tired ... and had had a great time on the American/Australian legs of the tour.
I was at the show with some of my friends, most of them have not heard much of the Church. They were really impressed by the band and by Peter in particular.
The sound was not that great and did not really meet the standards of the band though. The PA was a bit underdimensioned and there was a real nasty peak at around 7-10 k Hz which made the sizzle of the symbals in particular a bit painful, I guess the sound engineers ears didn't hear that any longer .... :) And there was also a resonance in the lows mostly trigged be a bass note from Steve that almost made the speakers turn inside out ... he should have heared that though ...Since I'm a sound engineer myself I have a bit difficulty not to focus on the sound , but I think that the band really deserve better technical conditions.
I was positively suprised by Tim; he did a really nice job on the drums. I only missed Richard a bit on Myrrh and Tantalized in the the dynamic build up of these songs. The band was really tight and sounded as good as ever.
The favorites of the night for me were...
Old Flame - A really nice little song
Tranquility - I agree with Kevin on this one
Day of the Dead - Really impressing, I have never heared this one [live] before - much better than the studio version. Nice sounds by Marty.
Almost With You - This one got the best audience responce, tight and beautifully played. This is really the Church for me.
Destination - Powerful, impressing guitar play by Peter
You Took - A really good song to end the night.
"If the audience got the message", my friend Anders noted, "they should play Cirkus next time around". Marty stated it briefly: "It was a gig that we needed to do here in Stockholm".