Black Rider Records
DAVID AND GOLIATH or THE CHURCH vs. THE FUCKING DISCO
a dispatch from your man on the street, Robert Lurie
I walked into the Masquerade around 10:30, and I swear to God, fucking Whitesnake was opening (or maybe it was Poison...or Winger?) I hit the sauce immediately, downing four Long Island Ice Teas in just as many minutes. If I recall correctly, the singer had blonde hair and may have even been wearing spandex. He was prancing and preening around the stage like David Lee Roth, and at one point he raised his fist to the sky and exclaimed, "ARE YOU GUYS READY FOR THE CHURCH?!!" The crowd yelled "Yeah!!!"
I was astonished that the crowd was actually listening to this band, and some people were even dancing. This was either an example of a) the graciousness of Church fans, or b) the opening band's girlfriends and family members enjoying themselves.
The second opening act appeared to be a No Doubt tribute band. They ran through a set of what seemed to be mainstream covers. The female vocalist moved about the stage oh-so-seductively in her tight tiger-print top and black leather pants, "dancing to the beat of her own drum." This kind of thing takes years off of your life. I started searching the sidelines for something harder than alcohol. Of course my search yielded nothing. I was meant to suffer.
Minutes before The Church took the stage, I went downstairs to avail myself of the restroom, which is in "Hell," or the discotheque part of the Masquerade. The DJ was rocking with two turntables and a microphone, and three flabby guys in their mid thirties were out on the floor, engaged in The Saint Vitus Dance. "Well," I thought to myself, "The Church will be on soon, and everything will be okay."
When I got back upstairs, The Church were already halfway through "Hiroshima mon Amour," my favorite track from A Box of Birds. Something strange happened when the band ended the song. The beat and bass continued. I did a double take. Steve and Tim WERE NOT playing...yet...the beat continued. What was this? A musical equivalent of The Tell Tale Heart? The ghost of a band that was electrocuted on stage years ago? It was loud enough that I could make out the tune: "How...does...it...feel...to...treat...me...like...you...do?" I could even tell that it was the New Order version, as opposed to the Orgy remake. That infernal discotheque!
Meanwhile, The Church continued with the best selection of songs I've ever heard them play. They did two or three tracks from Priest=Aura, my favorite album of theirs, including the rarely-performed "Dome." Yet, I was robbed of my joy. During the quieter moments of the songs, the beat from downstairs threatened to drown them out. The Church, however, soldiered on. I reflected on the one or two occasions during my own performing career when I have stormed off the stage under circumstances that were not nearly so bad as this. I realized with shame that I am a lightweight, and The Church are professionals. It was no surprise, then, when I learned that a few nights back the band had taken the stage and performed a show without lead singer and bassist Steve Kilbey, who had been arrested and was languishing in a jail cell somewhere. Most other bands (including mine) would have canceled the show. Not The Church.
Maybe that explains why the band seemed to take the current predicament in relatively good humor. Someone I know once said "Everyone's a Buddhist when it suits them." During the improvisational portion of "Two Places at Once," Tim forsook (is that even a word?) the illusory duality of the moment, the futile push-and-pull of Church vs. Disco, if you will, and slipped effortlessly into time with the pulsating beat from downstairs. Remember how well Tim played along with the drum machines on "Sometime Anywhere?" He showed that same skill tonight, as it looked like The Great Machine was not going to be turned off today or anytime in the near future for that matter, despite an impassioned plea from the usually-quiet Peter Koppes ("Tell them to turn that shit off or we will never play here again!!!") At any rate, the rest of the band followed Tim down his very unusual musical sidestreet for a while, jamming to "Funkytown" or some such nonsense, and then, somehow, returned to the song at hand. Talk about making the best of a very bad situation! Why couldn't the folks downstairs play "Electric Avenue?" Then things could get REALLY interesting.
As most of you know, Church concerts tend to build in energy and volume as the band gets warmed up. Tonight was no exception. Only, as the Church got louder, so did the music from downstairs! I couldn't believe this was happening. There were people in this audience that had driven all the way from Florida, Mississippi, and other surrounding states. They shelled out a ridiculous amount of money to pay for Ticketmaster's unjust "service charge." I really don't think anyone drove from Florida to go to that fucking disco on the other hand!
In their attempt to topple the Goliath downstairs, the Church grunged it up more than usual, and concluded the show with gloriously extended renditions of "Tantalized," "Day of the Dead," "Silver Machine," and "Cortez the Killer." Tim was pounding the skins HARD, and I am amazed at how he was able to keep his own time, since there was that constant, obtrusive beat from downstairs threatening to throw him off at any moment.
I tell you, that guy in "The Tell-Tale Heart" was a fucking pussy. Tim proved that you can block that shit out of your head and get down to the task at hand. Marty, Steve, and Peter played marvelously too. One of my friends, unfamiliar with The Church, commented on Steve's "focused energy," which I think is a very appropriate description. Marty gave 110% as usual, and Peter effortlessly blew me away with his characteristically inspired fretwork.
This same friend of mine had rolled what he termed to be "the largest joint ever constructed by man" with the intention of sharing it with the band. I'm sure they would have appreciated it too, but we had to split; he is a high school teacher and he had to be up at 6:00 AM to shape young, impressionable minds.
I walked away from this experience with one overriding thought: I've always respected the hell out of this band, but after watching them fight the disco and win, that respect just went up 100X. They're simply the greatest. No man or machine can touch them.
The Church themselves put on a great show, fun and intense, with a less than full but very enthusiastic crowd (some dancing, lots of hooting). Steve looked to be in a generous mood, and Marty was as energetic and playful as always. There was a big annoyance throughout the night: in the club below - the Masquerade is made up of three clubs together, and the band was playing on the top level, called 'Heaven' - a throbbing bass dance track played, and it came through the floor way too clearly. During the loud songs you could easily ignore it, but during any quieter portions it annoyed like hell. Peter cursed out the club manager a few times, and I think the band asked for the bass to be turned off or down, but it never went away. Peter and Tim were visibly annoyed, but Steve and Marty seemed willing to forge ahead and ignore it. The next day a neighbor told me that she had been to the Masquerade to see shows many times and that that had never happened before. Which is good, I suppose, but it happened Thursday night, and I would expect the band won't go back to that particular location again. The show was only partly spoiled, however, and the crowd and the band got on so well that it almost made up for it. Peter himself seemed to be having a good time during the last third of the concert.
I believe the song list was the same as at previous shows, and there were two, overwhelming encores. I think Box of Birds is an excellent album, and Silver Machine, the last song they played that night, one of the best tracks on it - and brilliant live. I heard the original All the Young Dudes in a bar the other day, and it surprised me, that it sounded like a pale imitation of The Church. The song from the upcoming album that they played didn't excite me very much, but I still have a feeling that it could be excellent. The Church aren't always brilliant, but when they are, you know how unique it is, and it can make you feel thankful that you are alive here and now, funny as that may sound.
this was supposed to be a SHORT show -- as in, not LATE. unfortunately The Masquerade decided to add a second opening act. they were called "Mister Natural" and ripped of every Grunge band you can name (Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, etc.). i dunno what the Masquerade was thinking? perhaps, "Hey, these Church dudes all have long hair -- we'll let My Little Brother's Metal Band open! they all have long hair too!" [NOTE: i can ONLY explain such bands actually getting gigs in 2 ways -- either SOMEBODY at the Club got laid as a result of their playing, or they are related to someone in Club Management] god, they sucked.
After they ended, Opening Band Number 2 took the stage -- Princess Christie and the Pirates. according to the tie-dyed (or is that tied-dye???) dood at the bar next to me as they went on, this band features the bassist of The Impotent Sea Snakes. apparently, he wants to be Rob Zombie now (ten gallon hat and everything) but play in Garbage?? what the? Princess Christie herself was some blond bim in a TIGHT bustier (how do you spell that) and a "Roxette" haircut. on the whole the band was not bad -- just very formulaic -- "Hey, we got a chick singing, so we must sound like Garbage!" whatever. only 2 aspects of their show are noteworthy:
1. they ended with an attempt at a faithful cover of "Me
and Bobby McGee". an attempt i say, because ole Princess
Christy might have a better figure than Janis Joplin, but
she is NOWHERE near the singer. period.
2. they only played for 25 minutes. why? who cares -- The Church are up next! woo hoo...
and The Church did not disappoint. they played for 1.5 hours -- mostly new stuff. off of _Box of Birds_ the latest covers album, they did "Hiroshima Mon Amour" (which opened the show) and "The Endless Sea" (a song by IGGY of which they have a groovey version!). much to my dismay they did not do anything off of _Seance_ (one of my favorite albums ever) and the only song off of _Starfish_ that they did was "Destination" (which totally kicked ass!!!) on the whole, i think they played a lot off of the more recent discs (makes sense), i am just not as familiar with that stuff. also, the last song they played in the regular set (an extended jam) sounded OLD -- i am thinking something off of _Of Skins And Hearts_, like "Fighter Pilot, Korean War", but i don't think that was it! i dunno.....
anyway, it was interesting in that The Church obviously have a quite rabid fan base. i say this for two reasons:
1. when i walked into Heaven (the section of the Club they were playing in) about 20 fans mobbed the Merch. Table asking questions, wanting to see albums, comparing track lists, etc. one guy looked at the single for "Louisiana" (a good song off of _Hologram Of Baal_) and asked the attendant "Are these b-sides available anywhere else?" the attendant, who looked quite flustered, stammered back "HEY! i work for the Masquerade. i have no clue!" so much for knowledgeable or concerned sales staff.
interestingly enough, fans kept pouring in and mobbing the merch table all through the 40 minutes or so of "Mister Natural" (yuk!). The Church must have made a pretty penny there..... but hey! some of their stuff is not as easy to find! i myself purchased a copy of the Refo:mation album (which features all of The Church EXCEPT Marty Wilson-Piper), which i had never seen before.
2. most people knew the words to ALL of the songs and were mouthing the words along. i felt somewhat out of place for not knowing the latest stuff as well...
OVERALL VERDICT: if they came back -- GO SEE 'EM! they rocked in a most entertaining fashion! thank you for your attention! PJ