This review will be printed in the next issue of Highwire Daze magazine, out October 15th. e-mail me back at email@example.com for any replies. Thanks!
The House Of Blues
September 15th, 1999
by Bret Miller
The first and previous time I had the extreme pleasure of seeing The Church perform was last year at the HOB. This time around the Australian band was in L.A. in support of their album of covers Box of Birds. The band started off a little shakily, with Hiroshima Mon Amour, sounding not quite practiced enough, then led into the hypnotic strains of Ripple. Steve Kilbey's vocals and bass finally settled into a groove while guitarists Peter Koppes and Marty Willson-Piper warmed up to the audience and their emotional response. Later, Peter took lead guitar for their new song After Everything. During Myrhh Marty let it rip on his guitar, giving me the impression that he is to Australia what Eddie Van Halen is to the U.S.
The clean drumming of their new drummer gave the atmospheric Anaesthesia more power, making it rock more. During the tightly arranged Buffalo Marty and Peter looked like they were having fun, interacting with each other on stage. At the end of Grind Marty attacked his guitar with such energy that he detuned it. They performed the Iggy Pop song The Endless Sea (which, according to Editor Ken, Iggy himself never played this song live) but for me fit right into The Church's set. On the uplifting Louisiana Peter took lead guitar while Steve and Marty combined their vocals pleasantly, followed by Both Places at Once (from Sometime Anywhere) again giving Peter's bluesy guitars a chance to flesh out the tune while Steve and Marty traded verses, giving the audience more of Marty's unique voice. Hearing Destination whether live or recorded will always be a joy and tonight was no exception. Tantalized opened with Peter wailing on his guitar, drawing feedback and squeals from it as if he were personally lifting the weight of the years since the song was first played, Marty and Steve both played with blissful energy leaving the audience breathless with happy exhaustion.
For their encore The Church played the moody Day of the Dead, followed by Reptile, which started off with someone out of tune or time and Steve decided to end saying "I never liked that song anyway." They then went on to perform Cortez, with Marty sitting on the floor by his amp and smoked a cigarette while playing guitar leaving Peter to pick up the slack, the guitars where excellent. While the show had its awkward moments, it was more than saved by Marty's youthful enthusiasm and Steve's velvet vocals, making for yet another enjoyable and memorable night for everyone at the House Of Blues.
Local band Ester opened the night with their angular rock songs and dark atmospherics, expanding on the often claustrophobic recorded versions found on Default State. Look for their album and those by The Church on Thirsty Ear Records.
Hello folks, Just got back from the L.A. House of Blues show and it sounds like I made the right decision to go there instead of Santa Barbara! I thought tonight was great, I liked it more than last year I think. Some interesting things happened onstage (one song they began, realized they were playing in two different keys, then gave up and Steve said "I fuckin' hate that song anyway") but overall it seems like it must have gone considerably smoother than the night before. Peter had some sound problems with his guitar which at one point they had to pause a bit between songs to fix, and a couple times his guitar went out during the song. It seemed like they played for quite a while, and we got some encores too. Towards the end, they seemed a bit tired, or pissed off, or something (Marty sat down for the last song). But overall it was great. The lighting was quite good too. I happened to see the lighting person outside and he said they had a good setup to work with. He meant in contrast to the other shows on this tour, so sorry, y'all faraway people.
As far as equipment goes, did anybody notice that Tim's drumset has two snares? He has one off to his right that seems a bit higher in pitch. I asked him about it and he was being equivocal so I didn't push it. Also he has the floortom in between two higher toms. Was it like that last year and I just didn't notice? Steve is now playing his Precision bass (four strings, not six). The coolest thing (not that any of you care) is that his amp setup is the same as mine - a Hartke head with an SVT cabinet. Makes me feel professional. :)
No T-shirts for sale, but they were selling some Church-related CDs: Margot Smith Taste, Refo:mation, Seeing Stars, Tyg's in Space, and Love Era/Irony (I think, not sure about that one), and then Steve's book. A nice opportunity to get whatever you may have missed; just make sure the CD covers aren't cut wrong like my newly-purchased Tyg's in Space (Damn! All the edges of the pages are cut off).
After the show I went upstairs and got to meet them, just like last year. Some people had those backstage passes and proper stuff, but apparently nobody cared since I didn't. I got to speak to each of them briefly, mostly just listening to what they said to other people while they signed the mountains of records some people brought (that always seemed a bit rude to me, but none of them seemed to care). Everybody was friendly and pretty talkative. Some interesting tidbits: the hidden track on Love Era/Irony is named "Mushrooms and Grass"; Tim got into engineering just because; and Marty's album in January will probably be followed by an acoustic tour; he says the reason it took so long is because "Spirit Level" is so good (an attitude I mentioned first and he apparently shares).
(spoiler follows - select/swoop the following bit with your mouse button held down to read it !)
Encores: Day of the Dead, half of a polytonal Reptile (see first paragraph), Cortez the Killer (Yes, no Friction)
Steve and Marty switch instruments on the new song. It's really good. I
asked Steve the title, but I forgot it (something about now or forever,
* Lars Christensen
Damn, here it is at 2 am and I was all set to rave and praise how great a Church show this was, and for the most part it certainly was -- dynamic, glorious, intoxicating, with the guys acting on their best behavior -- but again things broke down and Marty had to let an act of frustration at the very end color the whole proceedings.
The House of Blues was very crowded but not quite packed whole thing started off auspiciously enough with Richard Blade of KROQ tossing out KROQ t-shirts and introducing the band, and if you know who Richard Blade is, well, you get the picture. This was followed by the same disco version of "Milky Way" played as an intro tape as in Santa Barbara.
The set started well with "Hiroshima Mon Amour", although clearly few in the audience knew what the song was or why they were playing it. But one keen sign was already evident -- Peter was really moving around on stage and I got the feeling he might be in for one of his rare displays of exuberance over the course of the show.
Next came "Ripple" and that got the crowd going, and Peter too, as he really started getting into it, stalking around the stage. The sound at this early stage was really good, except for an occasionally booming bass that would muddy the guitars. Peter took full advantage of the unusual sound of his Leslie speaker during "Dome", the hypnotic drone of which led perfectly into "Kings", drawing the best response so far. They sounded incredible and I was fortunate to have just a *perfect* location in the club, IMHO, for both visuals and audio.
Following still with the same set as in SB, their new song came fifth, with Steve again switching to guitar and Marty to bass. It feels a little unfinished to me, as some of Peter's single-note guitar parts stepped on Steve's vocals a bit, but the kernel of a good jangly pop song is there.
Everything really took off with "Myrrh" and it was really sharp, but then it should be as it was one of the oldest songs they performed. Again Pete was being really rangey and more energetic than I could ever recall seeing him. In keeping with the energy level of Myrrh, they launched into a harder edged version of "Anesthesia" than on Hologram of Baal, complete with distorted power chords.
As great as that was, what really made me melt was "Tranquility" as Pete took Marty's 12-string Rickenbacker and made the most glorious jangling noise I've ever heard. I've wanted to hear Pete play a 12-string for ages and, with Marty playing his other Rick, the sound was incredible for several songs.
Between songs someone yelled something like "I love you, Steve" (I'm guessing, cuz....) but Steve said "Don't love me, I'm not worthy of it!"
"Buffalo" and "Grind" were fantastic, as was "Endless Sea" with both Marty and Peter using their E-Bows to give the spacey feel to their almost-in-tandem guitar parts, and "Louisiana" had almost the same sense of regal stateliness as on the record, IMHO
I was a little surprised they did "Two Places At Once", it was almost too subdued for the show, but the crowd's recognition of "Destination" picked everything up again, which rushed full bore into "Tantalized", marked by one of the wierdest displays I've ever seen Peter put on. Usually on this song Pete pretty much keeps to the chugging guitar parts in the intro, like Marty's, but this time he totally went off on creating wicked feedback, roaming around the stage, and wiggling the vibrato bar on his guitar to create squalls of distorted noise. The previous night it was Marty who had knocked over a mike stand in a fit of frustration, but this time it was Pete who let his mike stand have it, as he was getting frustrated with some technical problems.
They walked off, then came the first oncore of "Day of the Dead", which was somewhat heavier than at last years shows.
Here's where things started to get negatively interesting: They began playing "Reptile", getting the predictable big crowd reaction, but no sooner had they started it than they all missed a cue to go into the chorus and Steve stopped singing mid-sentence and seemed to shoot a look towards Tim. The song was called off, the very *first* time I've ever seen them do that, at which point Steve said loudly and pointedly "I hate this fucking song anyway!" and they didn't try to ressurect it.
So they go into "Cortez" and Marty sat down on the floor of the stage, with his back up against his effects rack, and played and smoked a cigarette while Peter soloed and there he stayed. Cortez came to a premature end and Peter threw his Telecaster down on the stage and walked off and Steve just stood there for a moment, back to the audience, seemingly stunned again.