New York

Bowery Ballroom

October 5th 1999

Steve Kilbey Arrested

The arrest was a minor drug charge and it will be wiped from his record after he performs one day of community service. The tour is back on track. A source close to the band said :
So ... a very tense couple of days but little damage actually done. The funniest thing is that we arranged for this great 24 track recording for 2nd day in NYC and got a very unusual show!!

Sydney Daily Telegraph
Legend Australian rocker in New York drug arrest

THE lead singer for Australian rock band The Church was arrested in New York yesterday on drug charges.

Steve Kilbey, 45, spent Tuesday night in jail after being picked up by the New York Police Department.

The first his fellow band members knew the Sydney musician was in trouble was when Kilbey failed to show at a performance the band was about to give on Manhattan's Lower East Side.

More than 200 fans waited at the Bowery Ballroom on Delancey St for the 10pm start.

At 10.35pm lead guitarist Marty Wilson-Piper nervously walked up to the microphone to reveal the news.

"I'm not sure how to say this, but we have a problem," Wilson-Piper said. "Steve isn't here. In fact he won't be available tonight, he's been arrested."

The band had not heard from Kilbey for more than eight hours, drummer Tim Powles later explained.

"He failed to show for a 4.30pm sound check, but we're at the end of the tour so no one was really bothered," he said.

By 10pm, when the lead singer and bass guitarist did not arrive, band members began to worry.

At first they started calling hospitals, before finally locating the veteran pop star.

He was spending at night at the central booking station in downtown Manhattan, a lock-up controlled by the New York Police Department (NYPD).

"He's on a minor charge," band manager Ward McDonald said.

"We're not saying anything else."

Mr McDonald refused to comment when asked if the offence related to illegal drugs.

A spokesman for the Bowery Ballroom said the arrest related to a "minor drug charge" but would not elaborate.

A police spokesman would not confirm or deny the charge, saying further details would be made available at a later stage.

Kilbey is due for release by the NYPD later today and is expected to be required to front court at a later date.

New York has among the nation's toughest street crime laws with police empowered to arrest and detain offenders for the minor charges.

News Limited 1999

The Australian
Australian rock singer on drug charge in New York


12.30pm (AEST) THE lead singer for Australian rock band The Church appeared in a Manhattan court today charged with possession of three small amounts of heroin.

Steve Kilbey, 45, was arrested in the notorious heroin district of "Alphabet City" on New York's lower east side on Tuesday afternoon local time.

According to documents tendered before Judge Gregory Carro in the New York City Criminal Court today, Kilbey was caught by NYPD officer William Post buying three "glassines" of heroin at the corner of East Sixth St and Avenue D.

The glassines, small plastic capsules, carried a "Red Devil" trademark and sell on the streets of Manhattan for between $US5-10 ($A7.50-$15).

Public defender John Kerins told the court Kilbey was an Australian visitor and first time offender and appealed for his immediate release.

The Sydney musician had spent the previous night in a Manhattan lockup.

Police prosecutor Jeff Chabrowe indicated leniency but asked that Kilbey be placed on some form of bond.

After a five-minute hearing, Judge Carro agreed and sentenced the Australian to serve one day's community service – ordering him to return to the same court room on December 8 where if he remains clean, and carries out his community service, his police record will be expunged.

Kilbey is to report to the Metropolitan Transport Authority later this month for a day's cleaning detail on the suburban A-train.

In handing down the relatively lenient sentence, Judge Carro warned the Australian he would face a much stiffer sentence if he was caught on the street again buying the illegal drug.

"Alphabet City is no longer the heroin capital of the world," Judge Carro advised Kilbey.

Kilbey's short stay in jail interrupted the band's American tour. He flew to North Carolina to catch up with the band.

His other concern was the welfare of his girlfriend Natalie, due to give birth to twin daughters this weekend.

Barry Cudlip sent this in, and told me that the newspaper accompanied this with a "nice little piece about SK being the most talented song writer that Australia has produced." Matt (matpac) sent that piece in - thanks Matt !
Church man one of the best

Although the heyday of The Church is now history, frontman Steve Kilbey is still regarded by many veteran music critics as one of the finest songwriters this country has ever produced.

While he was actually born in England, Kilbey grew up in Canberra before moving to Sydney in 1980 to form The Church.

The outfit proved immediately popular with local audiences and early singles such as The Unguarded Moment and Almost With You found an instant home in the top 40.

But The Church's greatest success came later in that decade. The band's 1988 album Starfish sold over one million copies around the world, 600,000 in the US alone. The first single off Starfish, Under the Milky Way, was a worldwide hit and won that year's ARIA award for best single.

The Church has continued to release albums through the 1990's but never realised such commercial peaks again. The band's latest CD, a record of cover versions called Box of Birds, came out just this week.

October 8th -

Rock star unfazed by arrest

STEVE Kilbey emerged from room 103 of the Manhattan Criminal Court slightly dishevelled but otherwise unfazed over his experience with the US legal system.

Kilbey, lead singer of veteran Australian rock band The Church, had been arrested by police the day before attempting to buy three small packets of heroin from a street dealer.

After spending a night locked in a cell at "Central Booking" with about 30 other prisoners and having missed the band's second and last New York concert, Kilbey still managed a joke.

He said being picked up for drugs in New York was a rite of passage for Australian musicians.

"A drug bust is something every ageing rock star should have under his belt," he said.

"(Australian singer) Nick Cave and I are in great company."

Kilbey said he was "popped" by police while walking near the corner of E6 St and Avenue D in the Alphabet City district of lower Manhattan about 2.40pm on Tuesday.

"Five years ago you would have had no problem down there," Kilbey said outside court. "Now things are different."

The 45-year-old singer/bass guitarist felt the full sting of New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's zero-tolerance crime policies.

NYPD officer William Post arrested Kilbey as he bought three "glassines" of heroin, neatly packed with a "Red Devil" trademark.

He was handcuffed and made to wait in the back of a police wagon for two hours, watching police arrest eight more men. After being strip searched, photographed and finger-printed at the local precinct, he was sent to the police lock-up at Centre St.

Not sleeping a wink in the crowded cell (he said one inmate propositioned him, another tried to sell him crack that had been smuggled in), Kilbey went before Judge Gregory Carro the following morning at 11.30am.

John Kerins (representing Kilbey) asked that his client, who had no record in New York, be allowed to go free, without any conviction.

Police prosecutor Jeff Chabrowe said the "people" demanded some form of punishment.

Judge Carro ordered Kilbey to report for community service for one day later this month.

He will spend a day cleaning A-Train subway carriages running from Manhattan to JFK Airport.

Kilbey's fellow band members, unhappy at being left without a lead singer the night before did not show up at the court to retrieve him.

The band had already flown to North Carolina where they were to perform a concert at the Cat's Cradle nightclub in Carrboro.

Kilbey managed to get a later flight, making last night's gig.

I don't like being the bearer of bad tidings, but thought you would want to know.

Sometime today, in NYC, Steve was arrested. At this point I have no further information, but he is apparently being held at least overnight, as he did not make it to the Bowery Ballroom show. (October 5th show)

The show seemed to be on schedule, but ten o'clock came and went, and went, until at about ten forty-five, Marty came out, carrying an unlit cigarette, went to the center mike and said, "We have a problem tonight. We're Steveless. I'll let that sink in while I light this." He walked back towards the drumkit, lit the cigarette, then said, "and it looks like he's not going to make it at all." He stepped back again, and after some comments from the audience, continued, "He's been arrested."

He then said he didn't know what they were going to do, but he was going to do a few songs and wait for the remaining others, then we'd see. He proceeded to do a well-received (considering the circumstances) 3-song set that someone else will recall more precisely for you. I was in too much shock at the time, though I'm fairly certain "She's King" and "10,000 miles" were two of the songs. After that, and another comment about us trying to imagine what it was like to be him right now, he left. In awhile he returned with Pete and Tim. Again, I leave it to more coherent minds to tell you what was played. At this befuddled and somewhat distressing moment, I only seem able to recall the cover of "She Moved Through the Fair". Then Marty did another coupla songs. I thought he was just wonderful, trying to pull things together as he did. Then Pete and Tim returned, along with Ward, the road manager, all-purpose guy, etc. And Ward gamely played bass for a few more songs, including an astonishing "Two Places at Once," (for Mary e-bowing and singing both parts!), "The Endless Sea", and "Cortez".

They finally ended things, very prematurely, with "Silver Machine". The moment they were offstage, the Bowery Ballroom lights went up and music came over the sound system. It was that clearly and abruptly over. Of course, everyone must have understood.

I guess it goes without saying that it was a strange concert, though I was proud, mostly, of the way the crowd handled the news. For my part, as gamely and beautifully as the band played while their minds were clearly elsewhere, I could hardly pay attention either. I am certainly very concerned, not knowing what the story is, for Steve's welfare. I suppose I can guess what the charge concerns, but would not want to hazard it here. And of course it's very frustrating, wanting to somehow do something but clearly being helpless. The idea of him spending at least one night in a Manhattan jail is hideous. And the further thought, that I cannot suppress -- that this could really bring an end to their touring here (I hope I'm just being my usual alarmist self) -- is truly unbearable.

I wanted to hang around tonight, just in case anyone appeared who might be willing to give out more info, but had to leave. If I hear anything further I will surely pass it along. Otherwise, I suppose I'll have to wait for the news on Shadow Cabinet.

Take care,


Dear Church Heads,
Last night I went to The Church's show at Bowery Ballroom in New York City. After the mediocre and poppy opening act Angry Salad and a long wait, guitarist Marty Wilson-Piper came out to tell the crowd he was sorry about the wait, but there was a reason. "Steve's not here," he said, referring to their lead singer and bassist Steve Kilbey. After a couple fans asked where he was Marty built up the mystery by becoming dramatially silent. "He's been arrested", he said. The crowd laughed at first, but slowly came to realize he was serious. He joked about how bad the crowd would not want to be him right now, but you could see there was an obvious tension. He said the rest of the band was backstage discussing the matter and he was sent out to play something...anything. He launched into a song I didn't recognize, I assume it was from one of his solo albums. He was met by an enthusiastic crowd response, which proved that most of the people there were true Church fans. Some people shouted questions and requests:


"Where's Peter?"

"What did they arrest him for?"


The next acoustic song was 10, 000 Miles which Marty went all out for, strumming away on his 12-string like a real nutter. Yet again, the crowd was still in it, perhaps hoping Steve would show up out of the blue. The next song was called She's King I think, but I'm not positive. After that he said they were gonna discuss what to do and that he'd be back. The crowd murmured while the house music came up for ten minutes. Finally, the Steve-less band took the stage.

They played a pretty obscure set of songs that for the most part I didn't know. (Sorry folks, but I don't know the last three albums that well) They even got their tour manager Ward(who Marty said was the ex bassist for Morbid Angel, ha!) to play a few of Steve's more simpler bass lines. Marty continued to be rather pleasent and jovial about the whole situation which I think is rather commendable. They took another break for a couple more Marty acoustic songs. For one of his solo songs he asked some fans for help with the lyrics, but he amazingly remembered most of them. And you know how alot of those songs have quite a few verses! I do know they did both "Cortez The Killer" and "Silver Machine" from the Box of Birds album which were both very jammy and extended. Marty cracked the crowd up by dismissing a request for "Under The Milky Way" by saying that they didn't play it when Steve was there so why the hell should they play it tonight. But the best laugh of the evening came when someone shouted "Free Bird!" and guitarist Peter Koppes retorted "Free Steve!"

All in all it was a very interesting show to have seen, though I was initially disapointed by Marty's announcement. I have to admit that I thought Marty was going to say Steve had died. Other audience members agreed that it was a little cryptic the was Marty built up to it. Why was he arrested? I don't know and Marty's not talking so we'll have to wait and see. But tonight put the group's musicianship to test and I would have to say they passed.

Well, I hope this was informative and I hope you post all of the reviews of this show. I'd love to read about other audience members reaction to this unique and dramatic show.


Mike Gent
I don't know if this is news to you or not...I went to the show last night (Oct. 5) at the Bowery Ballroom. First off, the opening band was awful, annoyingly jangled power pop ("Angry Salad" I believe they called themselves). After a mind-numbing wait, Marty mosied on stage and mumbled to an impatient crowd, "We seemed to have a slight problem...We have no Steve." I kid you not. Apparently Mr. Kilbey got himself arrested. For what, I have no clue, and I'm eager to find out (read: if you know why please tell me!!!). The show did go on, but understandably it was somewhat lackluster and disorganized (roadie Wade ended up playing/learning bass). Kudos to Marty W-P though; he managed to hold the sinking ship together with relative grace and poise, leading the ad hoc ensemble in semi-stirring renditions of Cortez the Killer and Day of the Dead (as well as a couple rusty, yet surprisingly well-done acoustic solo numbers: "10,000 Miles", etc.). For my $20 admission, I still would like to know what happened to jailbird Steve...anyone?

Mike Gent

Michael Bradley
The October 5 show at the Bowery Ballroom was horrible. Steve got arrested before the show, so the band decided to try and play without him. Marty did some solo acoustic numbers and then the rest of the band came out and they tried to do some Church songs with their roadie/tour manager on bass and Marty singing.

Marty was very entertaining and the crowd (almost no one left until the band was told to get off the stage) was very sympathetic to the bands situation. There were alot of jokes going back and forth between the band and the crowd, trying to make light of a disappointing situation. The makeshift band was only able to come up with 7 or 8 songs (3 off of ABOB) with rather long breaks in between songs. They were trying to teach the bass parts to the roadie and I guess were limited to songs where Marty knew most of the lyrics. Hopefully, the Church will decide to come back to NY and play another show, so that their NY fans will have a chance to see a proper Church concert.

Hopefully, Steve is o.k.


I had a strange night last night: went to the new Bowery Ballroom to see the church, a band from Aussie that I've always loved for obvious reasons: very atmospheric sound and good guitars, with lyrics that can be deciphered as either positive or dark, depending on mood. Suits me well.

I get there about 8:45 and find a small space with great acoustics, very nicely appointed, 3 bars on 3 levels, with Sierra Nevada on tap at lower level near bathroom. Heaven awaits... First beer.

Opening band: angry salad from Boston: not bad mix of Counting Crows and U2. They did a version of "99 luft balloons" which was a fairly inventive goof. Second beer.

It is now after 10 p.m. Another beer? Yes I believe so. I see Marty Willson-Piper buzzing around club, pass Peter Koppes on stairs. Something up?

Piper comes on stage around 10:30 or so, smoking like a fiend. "I'm sorry, Steve (Steve Kilby, lead singer/bass) is not here tonight." Where the f*** is he?" shouts someone from the crowd (Long Islander?). "He's been arrested". "what the F*** for?" Will someone give this compassionate gentleman his $20 back?"

Marty explains he'll play some acoustic stuff and plays three songs acoustically. Then states, "I'll be back after having a chat with Peter and Tim (Tim Powles drummer)". They had to decide what they could play without a bassist.

Another beer required. Band comes back out. "I'd like to introduce Ward, our roadie, etc., who can play bass." Huge cheers for Ward. He's our man.

Band goes on with a mix of stuff: some solo, some older church, and a few off their new album of covers "Box of Birds." A killer version of Neil Young's "Cortez the Killer," also "Silver Machine" I believe.

All in all, a pretty satisfying show, all things considered. Didn't get home until 2:30 though. Ouch.

I planned to see both Church shows in New York. Although the show on Monday was excellent (read the Chicago show reviews and you know what Im talking about, it was exactly the same set list), Tuesday night turned out to be far more interesting: Im sure you all know by now that Steve Kilbey got arrested. Nobody said what for, but there werent too many guesses. Impressing how Marty tried to save the evening. He played three songs on his acoustic guitar, a passionate version of "Rhyme" and a very charming rendition of "10 000 miles". He then went backstage to discuss the "not so auspicious" situation with Peter and Tim. About half an hour later, the three are onstage, jamming through a couple of songs, including "Cortez the Killer", in which Marty did a fabulous job and Steve's absence nearly didnt matter. At one point one fan shouted: "He's almost with you!", others screaming "free Steve!" and "all our friends are felons, too!" Driver and Tech and Roadie Ward helped out on bass, learning the songs literally while playing them. After a powerful "Silver Machine" they left with no encores. Im glad that they didnt cancel the show, although people were promised a refund. I would have stayed another couple of hours to see them jam, but understand that they didnt feel too comfortable without Steve. Still, some fans could have helped out...

I must say that Im deeply impressed how devoted the Church fan base is to the band. Unfortunately, the show on Monday was not crowded at all, while the place was almost sold out on Tuesday and the band could have had one of their best NYC shows ever - the audience was ready for it! It seemed that almost nobody left when Marty announced that Steve was arrested. Everybody encouraged Marty to play "whatever he wanted" and most of the people enjoyed the unexpected different situation, although, I believe that secretly everbody hoped for Steve to appear in the very last second. Well, he didn't.

I hope Steve's out by now and wish the Church all the luck they can get, hoping they will return to NY very soon, despite the not so fortunate incident. I'll wait.


Marc Bieler
I don't know what happened last night re Steve K. being arrested, as announced, but Church fans should know what a great job Marty did in putting on the Show! I turned out to be an exciting Show, as Marty did a few solos, and the band did electric versions of old and new's called "thinking on your feet", and the Church came through...

Marc Bieler

Greg Swedosh
After a seedy day of recovery, too late for the pre-gig meeting with fellow Seancers, I dragged myself back to the Bowery Ballroom on Tuesday night to find a bigger crowd than the previous night. The glamoured up glossy support band were finishing their set with Nena's 99 luftballoons in homage to I'm not sure exactly what. Church fans cringed one more time and then began the wait for the band to come on stage while a tape of The Ramones played. Feeling somewhat more subdued than the previous night, there was only so much of The Ramones that I could handle. Their one recycled song with the changing lyrics pumped out incessantly. As each song would finish, expectation filled the hall of The Church coming on stage. Instead, the next thrashy three chord number would blair out and the crowd were starting to get visibly restless. After about an hour that seemed to last an eternity, Marty made his way on to the stage and came gingerly over to the mike. He said that there was a bit of a problem and that Steve would not be here tonight. He was clearly very nervous and prompting from the crowd was not helping him in anyway, but rather making him draw the whole explanation out even longer. From his tone, when he said that Steve wouldn't make it, there was no doubt that it was something serious. His manner made me hope that he wasn't about to say that Steve was dead or injured somewhere. When he finally said that Steve had been arrested the crowd became hushed. Somebody shouted out "where are Peter and Tim?" to which he replied that they were not there either, and he didn't know when they would be along. With that he launched into an acoustic version of Ritz and hoped for the best, choosing the song, I suspect, because it is so long and he could delay having to decide what to do next. I wondered how the crowd would react. Would there be a clamouring for money back, would people just walk out? Mostly people murmured with those around them, or stared in silence contemplating the situation. After Ritz, Marty seemed at a loss as to what to do, although the crowd had clearly decided to support him in every way, cheering rapturously for him to play anything. Someone yelled for Spark and Marty couldn't remember exactly how it went, ignoring that suggestion, hoping instead for a flash of inspiration. He decided on 10,000 Miles and began to relax, exchanging quite a bit of chit chat with the crowd, suggesting that everybody in the venue was glad that they weren't him at that particular point in time. He rehearsed the song in a slightly embarrassed manner before playing a near perfect rendition of this old gem. By this stage the mood of the Bowery Ballroom had warmed and after another quick rehearsal and several humorous remarks, Marty played the beautiful She's King. On completion of that, Marty excused himself from the stage saying that Pete and Tim had arrived, and that he was going to go and have a little chat with them in which they would decide what to do. They would return soon in some form or another. The crowd buzzed with the sense of excitement that equally surrounds a disaster or something particularly special. This night had both. When Marty, Pete and Tim returned, Marty was clearly relieved to have some company, and to hand over vocal duties to Peter for a while. Someone yelled out "Play Freebird" to which Pete replied "Free Steve". Marty excelled. His guitar playing was even more energy charged than normal and when he took over the vocal duties once more, he delivered powerful versions of Cortez and Endless Sea, the latter taking on a little extra meaning under the shadow of Steve's plight. Ward, the amiable tour manager, roadie, merchandise seller had been quickly elevated to bass guitar duties which he handled with aplomb. The crowd loved it, screaming that Ward was a God, and "We want Ward". Marty particularly seemed to be having a good time now, rushing on the adrenaline of having had to have taken on so much without preparation, and having delivered. Eventually the band were more or less yanked off stage by the Ballroom management for overrunning their time allotment to thundrous applause from a crowd that knew that they had experienced a special moment. Under extreme pressure, the boys had pulled it off plus more.

The scene in the bandroom after the show was significantly mellower than the evening before but boyuant nevertheless. Not as many had made an effort to go back there despite the fact that there was no security. On Monday night the room had been crowded and the place had been guarded like Fort Knox. The obvious topic for discussion tonight was Steve's fate. Would he be deported? Would he ever be allowed back into the US again with a drug conviction against his name? Pete seemed unfazed by the whole thing saying that it was easy, all Steve had to do was marry someone on the Wednesday and the authorities wouldn't be allowed to deport him. The solution seemed drastic, but potentially so did the situation. Chrispie meanwhile looked completely drained. He'd spent the whole gig getting lyrics off the CD and writing them down so that Marty could sing them. True dedication to the cause. Brian Smith adds: I gotta sing long and loud about the many virtues of Chrispie. Not only did he design the default U.S front cover for the Box of Birds album, but he is a tireless Church fan, going far out of his way to attend as many shows as he can. A man of good humour and a great friend, he also introduced me to my fiancee, the lovely Deanne Clark.

As we bid the guys farewell and wandered off into the calm New York City night, there were many things to reflect on. The show we'd just had the privilege of witnessing; relief that I'd also seen the full show the night before; chats with Pete, Tim and Marty; friends I'd made largely thanks to Seance; and then of course, thoughts of Steve. It always comes back to Steve.

A message left in the guestbook by Michael
I am torn as of late between my love for the dislocating heady swirl which is the Church and my disdain for selfish stupidity cloaked as poetic hedonistic excess. After years of appreciation I had the good fortune to see the Church in Chicago at the HOB in 98 & 99. Of late we've witnessed a climb from the (sometimes) glorius errata of the Church post-priest to glimpses of the rarest of sights--a (rock?)band that appears to be reaching its epoch of creativity well after the "my generation" edict of "hope I die before I get old."

Imagine then the iron shutters clanging down on that vision with Steve's arrest for heroin possession in New York. Upon his release Steve professes his concern with regard to his girlfriend and unborn twins. (And of the twin daughters who are already aware?) As the line goes--what is this stuff you're using that's stronger than love? As the father of two I know that things opened in me after their birth that are still in the process of unfolding. The one certainity I have in life is in my absolute love for them and in my desire to ensure their well-being. Steve, I hope you find your center and soon--there are many people in this world who have made your songs part of their own lives, and whose lives would be lessened by your passing. There are others of your own making who are lessened by your pretense at presence.

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