The Church wowed the audience at Auckland’s Town Hall by not only performing their sublime 1988 album Starfish in its entirety, but then proving what a vital, energized rock and roll band they still are with their stunning 75 minute second set.
With music, many of us, especially those who write about it, are constantly looking for the new… the next buzz band… something to give us the same jolt of adrenaline we got when we were first seduced by music. And it seems that constant search for the new and cool sometimes causes us to forget, or ignore excellent music being made by artists who may not be the flavour of the month.
Sure, classic artists such as Bob Dylan, Fleetwood Mac and The Rolling Stones still generate their share of press, but, aside from Dylan, few of them are making any new music worth paying attention to.
Then there is The Church.
Here is a band that’s been making consistently great records since 1980, with at least two singles, Under The Milky Way and The Unguarded Moment that penetrated the mainstream mindset.
Yet, here they are in 2018, struggling to fill the Town Hall.
Fortunately, the band was in good spirits, with front man Steve Kilbey quick to note his appreciation of the venue… the show had been moved from Spark Arena.
With no opening act present, or needed, Kilbey and his bandmates proceeded to make their way through Starfish, which meant playing their biggest hit, Under The Milky Way, second. Normally, this would be seen as problematic, but what followed was anything but a letdown.
Under The Milky Way may be the tune that everyone knows, but the rest of the album turns out to be filled with gems such as Lost, A New Season (sung by guitarist Peter Koppes) and Reptile... easily the high-point of the first set as guitarists Koppes and Ian Haug expanded and improved on the original.
After Hotel Womb, an intermission was taken, wine glasses were refilled and bladders emptied.
Anyone who left, thinking they’d seen and heard all they needed, made a serious mistake.
It turns out that the Starfish set proved to be just a warmup for what was to come…75 minutes of inspired, guitar-driven rock and roll.
As Kilbey pointed out before launching into Constant In Opal, a relatively obscure tune from a 1983 EP, “The roll has to equal the rock”.
He’s not wrong.
And from there the show took off in a guitar-infused frenzy.
I should point out that in addition to Koppes and Haug, the band featured a third multi-instrumentalist, Jeffrey Cain. There were many times during the show when all three were playing guitars, often 12-twelve-strings, serving up more jangle-rock than a band full of Peter Bucks.
I should also point out that the lighting was a perfect complement to the music... never overwhelming it, but always enhancing the listening experience. There were times when I shut my eyes to take in the sound, then was even more entranced when I opened them to find the stage awash in red, or pulsating blue.
The show was a seated event, up until the encore.
When the band… and I should mention drummer Tim Powles (a Kiwi)… returned with The Unguarded Moment, many in the audience could no longer contain themselves and the front of the venue was full of happily dancing fans.
Then the band deftly shifted from their first album to their twenty-first, closing out the night with an epic performance of Miami, from 2014’s Further/Deeper, proving that The Church is no nostalgia act and that this is a band that still has something to say.
The Church set list:
- Under The Milky Way
- Blood Money
- North South East West
- A New Season
- Hotel Womb
- Another Century
- Constant In Opal
- Day 5
- Almost With You
- The Unguarded Moment