Pictures by Jay Ditzer
Drove 5+ hours from Evansville, IN to Memphis TN to see the Church at Newby's. I've never been to Memphis, so my small crew (girlfriend Jen, friend + Church fan Mike) hit town around 3 pm and wandered aimlessly. Visited Newby's around 5 pm to see the lay of the land when who should we bump into but Steve Kilbey. He looked a bit weary (understandable), but he was pleasant, signing autographs and allowing us to take his picture. He retired to an automobile with a few more fans and we left the venue.
We stopped back by Newby's at 9 pm. Wonder of wonders, Kilbey and Peter Koppes were both standing out front. We were about to approach Koppes when Marty Willson-Piper walked out. The band (sans Tim Powles) piled into a cab and split. We later discovered that they were having really bad sound problems, so the show was being delayed until these snafus could be addressed.
Blah blah blah: A comedian (??!!) hit the stage at 10:50 pm, managed to annoy and offend most of the audience (I found him somewhat amusing, but this guy was completely ill-suited to open the show), and finally, at quarter past 11, the Church took the stage. They rocked, naturally. We saw the Church on Oct. 3, 1998 in Cincinnati, where we stood in front of Koppes, so this time we stood in front of MWP. Koppes paced a bit, Kilbey sweat profusely (at one point he asked MWP to point his fan toward him) and told the audience that "It's like a sauna up here," Powles provided rock steady backing (and made it look incredibly easy), and of course, MWP played rock god all night, handling practically all of the leads, coaxing all manner of FX-assisted shrieks, roars and noises from a variety of axes, mainly a black 12-string Ric 360, a blonde 6-string Ric 330 w/trem, and (I believe) a Jazzmaster. "Tantalized" was probably my pick for the evening's highlight, but "Endless Sea" was amazing, as were "Cortez," "Myrrh," "Dome," "Ripple," "Grind," and "Maybe These Boys" (just kidding). Good to hear the new song. MWP had the chorus to "Kings" taped to his monitor.
There were no surprises in the set list save for the return of "Reptile" during the second encore. Although Koppes kept swapping guitars (white Strat, red Tele, MWP's black Ric), often in the middle of songs, he didn't appear to be having too many technical problems. Sitting on his Vox and playing a 12-string Takamine acoustic, MWP yelled for Kilbey to go faster during "Two Places at Once," but to no avail. We managed to take several pix during the show -- let's hope they turn out OK! Got to meet Koppes and MWP afterwards. Powles was spotted, but he disappeared before I could ask him to sign an autograph. I felt like an ass talking to them, but they were all very nice. A great, great show! Mike + I were giggling like schoolgirls, Jen was, uh, not as impressed as we were, but she enjoyed the show.
A few complaints: Would it kill the Church to play a little closer to Evansville? Maybe Louisville? I'll pay for their hotel rooms! Also, why do audience members feel compelled to scream requests? We all know by now that once these guys get a set list, they treat it like Holy Writ from which they rarely, if ever, deviate, so please don't stand up front and shriek "Terra Nova Cain" in my ear for half the night.
The show was far better in my opinion to the one in New Orleans last year, even though my old Church-buddy from college days couldn't make it this time around. My wife, who really enjoys them, came with me though. The sound was excellent, the 250 or so people there were enthusiastic, and Steve actually smiled quite alot. Marty was outstanding.......really worked well with the crowd I thought. Peter was more reserved ( if you can believe that ! ) than last year. Tim looked like he was having fun, or happy that this was the last show. The set list was like the other shows...all solid. I'm pretty excited about the new song they're playing, very melodic and quite good........good potential for airplay if handled right by their people.
I was there very early and ran into Steve as he was hanging up the payphone in the back hall. He was very polite, but seemed a little down as we talked for a few minutes about the end of the tour. He said he was ready for that. Outside a little later I ran into him again as I went to my car to get something. We talked for a couple of minutes about nothing really, and he struck me as being almost sad really, or at least unhappy. Not angry though or anything like that, just down. Maybe it was exhaustion. I had a couple of chances to talk with Marty and Peter, but I didn't want to bug them. I saw Marty a couple of hours before the show sitting at the T-shirt/cd table with a notebook in his hand writing stuff down as he looked at the merchandise. It was like he was taking inventory !
It was a great show altogether. Keep up the good work, Brian !
It was monsoon season in Memphis last night. Rain was pouring in sheets in the sodium-light and darkness as I was fumbling with my "MapQuest" print out of whatever the hell "Newby's Restaurant" was. I thought, "they're playing in a supper club somewhere?" Had visions of retired couples in polyester out for dinner on a Friday night, tinkling silverware politely, but dropping their forks as The Church launch into "Tantalized" before the dessert tray come around. Turns out Newby's IS a restaurant/pool hangout, but next door is the gutted-retail building turned concert-hall. I had traded a few emails with Glenn of Memphis, and he expressed fears that turnout would be embarrassingly light. That was not the case, as probably 200-300 filtered in through the constant downpour and pretty much filled the hall to capacity. This club is in a bohemian district next to the University there and unfamiliar to me, as I had only been to several clubs during previous visits on the famous Beale Street, where the original Delta Bluesmen howled in times past.
I missed the opening band, because I, uh....had a "quick smoke at spots" discreetly and safely outside during their set to adjust my attitude. Had a deja-vu experience with Marty outside the entrance, he & a roadie (I didn't get his name) seemed to be interested in estimating turn-out. We spoke briefly, he seemed ready to end the tour and head home; he was friendly. Lava-lamps glowed with candlelight at the bar & I picked up an Anchor Steam to wait. There was a stand-up comic doing a routine, taking some good-natured audience flak. At one point he played on the band's name to mock Southern religious attitudes in this Bible-Belt capital still politically very much under the influence of huge, activist organized religious groups.
The band took the stage shortly, around 10:00, Steve's hair wet (like almost everyone that night), which he kept stroking straight back. This crowd seemed genuinely enthused, and many long-time followers of the band excited about finally seeing them live, from conversation I was hearing. The sound here was actually quite good, minus the disco-thumping in Atlanta, and with the addition of projected video images of the band as they played on a background antique "cola" ad, such as the ones painted onto many a southern brick building decades ago. This crowd knew the catalog, and there was loud applause for "Kings" and "Dome", as well as "Anesthesia", "Buffalo", "Tranquility", "Destination". There was even a shout for "Texas Moon" from the audience. Steve, Marty, Peter all kept between song comments to a minimum, though always responding with "thank you's". It was warm, and they toweled-off frequently. At one point, during the thundering percussive intro to "Endless Sea", Marty held his Ebow device in an outstretched and upturned palm, looking as an Avatar possessing some strange blue light in his grasp, staring at it curiously in the darkness. This song really works well live. Steve's voice was clear and measured, and I was once again struck by his trance-like, closed-eyed swaying during instrumental passages. There was stomping, and choruses of "church....church" from a chanting crowd, to bring the encores. Someone shouted "Reptile" earlier, and possibly had some hidden influence on the encores, as Marty's fretboard released the opening figures to exactly that, resurrecting this crowd-favorite to a huge reception. At the start of Silver Machine, Marty demonstrated some nimble string-adjustment on the low-E, while still maintaining the bar-chords, popping the string ball-end back into the bridge of his Fender, then grinning with a satisfied expression. Silver Machine dissolved into feedback squalls after about 2 hours of continuous and enthralling music.
The band adjourned to a front room and generously let in a waiting group to chat & sign autographs. When the door first opened, I knew they had had a "Quick Smoke at Spot's" themselves, along with some other supplied snacks....fruit, juices, and two bottles of Johnny Walker Red. Steve signed my "Earthed" book cordially, and said that yes, he was expecting another set of twins. He seemed tired, but indulged all who wanted to meet him. We talked briefly about children (I have a 9-yr old son), and I wished him well with the new ones. They had a black Lincoln limousine parked outside, perhaps a fitting ride to end this US tour. I'm just happy they came again so soon, and look forward to their return. Glenn: Great to meet you, your friend looked pretty excited to have Tim's drumsticks.