BY ANTHONY HORAN
........Those who had written The Church off as a great band fallen on unpopular days would have had to eat their words at the sight of the huge crowd that had gathered for this show. With The Palace packed to the rafters, the band ventured onto a straightforward, prop-free stage and commenced a two-hour set that surprised many by almost completely ignoring the new album ( the only exception was the inclusion of Comedown, played early on ) and instead going on a journey through the Church back catalogue.
Original lineup virtually intact ( though now up to their third drummer, the versatile Tim Powles ), Kilbey and Co travelled through the more "rock" moments of their 16-year recording career, drawing heavily on their internationally successful late 80s albums. This was one for the fans- sure, Unguarded Moment never got a look in, but When You Were Mine, Almost With You and Is This Where You Live more than made up for the omission. Seeming to enjoy themselves ( especially Marty Willson-Piper, whose constant grin and over-the-top guitar antics implied that he's been waiting for this for years ), it took two generous encores to finish proceedings, with an 11-minute take on You Took ( with a good portion of the audience taking over the first verse ) a perfect closer.
Anyone debating just how popular this band is would have been silenced by this compelling, exhilarating show. The Church paid back their audience's good will by giving them what they wanted ( the whole story ) rather than the expected ( a run-through of the new album to a puzzled crowd ). They're playing together so well these days, though, that a show incorporating the explorations of the two most recent albums would be a perfect next step. Tonight though, The Church were a rock band again, bona fide pop stars playing a gig that more than one Church veteran in the audience described as the best gig they'd ever seen by the band. Let's hope it's not another four years before they do it again- this tired, Oasis-battered world needs The Church now more than ever.