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  Center Stage Theater  
  Midtown, Atlanta, GA  
Reviewed by:
  PostLibyan and Inspector Jason and Tracers  
Photography by:
Performance Rating:
Sound Quality:
Overall Rating:



I have been listening to The Church for about 25 years now, which is 5 years less than the band has existed.  This was their 30th Anniversary tour, which really says something about the band.  How many acts do a 30th anniversary tour that is not also a reunion of some sorts?  Well, The Church are still going strong, releasing an excellent album in 2009.

So a group of the Minions trekked to Center Stage in order to see the band.  Center Stage is a pretty nice venue – stadium seating surrounding a large floor and ample stage.  Tonight they had chairs set up on the floor, so no one would have to stand.  We grabbed seats level with the stage, and sat to wait.

The crowd was much as you would expect the crowd at a 30th anniversary show to be:  mostly older folks, a few with their children.  Die-hard fans in old tour shirts.  When you walked in, staff handed you a free CD EP and a program booklet.  The program listed the band’s discography, with a few words penned by guitarist Marty Wilson-Piper about each record, as well as some favorable press comments.  This was a nice treat for the fans.

Inspector Jason:

Out of all of my favorite bands, The Church is the one that has never made music seem like a job.  While some of their albums are better than others, The Church have never released anything that feels "phoned in", probably because they don't seem to have any career incentive to do so.  The music just keeps coming and it never sounds forced.   On this final night of The Church's 30th Anniversary Tour, the band's seemingly effortless longevity and resourcefulness was made all the more apparent by the reverse chronological order of their songs where their recent material sounded just as fresh and urgent as their early 80s output. 

The Church in action.

  Unlike the other minions, I've sort of lost touch with The Church over the years. I pretty much loved everything they produced up through Gold Afternoon Fix, but haven't actually bought any albums since that time. For someone who was vaguely unfamiliar with The Church's recent catalogue, it was surprising how well all the song choices melded together. Admittedly, the newer material tended to be more jazzy and meandering than some of the earlier tunes, but it nevertheless always sounded like a coherent whole.  

They were the only act on the bill tonight, hitting the stage at 8:30 to enthusiastic applause. They took their places and tore into it. Here is the set list:

Set 1: Pangaea, Space Needle, Reptile, Ionian Blues, The Unguarded Moment, Appalatia, Invisible, Louisiana, Comedown, My Little Problem

Set 2: Mistress, Metropolis, Under the Milky Way, Already Yesterday, 10,000 Miles, Fly, Almost With You, Tear It All Away

Encore 1: Disarm, Space Saviour

Encore 2: Grind

Between sets one and two, they took a thirty minute intermission, kind of like the first set was the opening for the second set. As The Inspector stated, the pattern tonight was one song from each record, chosen by the fan community, in reverse chronological order.

Inspector Jason:

I'm not normally a fan of acoustic music, but The Church is one of the few acts that makes the format inviting for me.  The Church managed to capture the immediacy of their electric sound by creatively tweaking these acoustic versions for each song.

Marty Wilson-Piper on the 12 string.

  When they have done acoustic tours in the past, I sat those out.  I often find that the format isn’t as immediate in a live setting as a good, roaring electric set.  The Church destroyed that impression, playing with a passion and intensity that belied the delicate arrangements of the songs.  

Actually, as much as this was billed as an acoustic set, I wouldn't necessarily agree.  Sure there was some acoustic guitar sound, mostly courtesy of Wilson-Piper's 12 string.  However,  every other instrument (except the mandolin) was plugged in and the band had an energy which one doesn't normally associate with an "acoustic" show.

Koppes on mandolin, while Kilbey plays electric bass.

  In particular, Invisible, from 2002’s After Everything, Now This was blistering live. Marty Wilson-Piper and Peter Koppes traded guitar licks effortlessly, while drummer Tim Powles attempted to destroy his kit, and Steve Kilbey stood there with a satisfied look on his face, thumping at the bass and letting the guitarists play. Very impressive. Of course, it came in the middle of three of their strongest tunes…  
Inspector Jason:
  Comedown, from 1996’s much-maligned Magician Among the Spirits album, sounded just as Spinal Tap "volume 11" suitable in this acoustic performance as it does on the album. The older "new romanticism" songs from the early 80s that benefitted from synthesizers and lush production managed to sound just as ethereal in this acoustic setting.  

I found that as the set progressed, it really showed how strong their catalog is. Even songs like Comedown and My Little Problem (both of which come from relatively weak albums), shined in this format.

As with any such “greatest hits”, not everyone will agree with the choices. I found it amusing that in the introduction to Metropolis, which was a hit for the band, Steve Kilbey said that he had always hated the song. I amused to think about the band performing songs they dislike. Nonetheless, they played it well and professionally.

  Like PostLibyan, I found the introduction to Metropolis amusing, if only because of their "hits", it's one of my favorites. Likewise, if anything, I would have expected that commentary for Under the Milky Way, which is The Church's most ubiquitous tune.  

There are some songs that I wish I had heard, most notably Electric Lash or maybe Hotel Womb, songs I do not think I have ever seen them play in the 5 times I have seen the band live. But oh well. I was not disappointed.

To introduce the first song in the encore, Kilbey stated, “Smashing Pumpkins play our song, so we are going to play theirs!” The tune they chose was Disarm, which might be Smashing Pumpkins biggest hit, I honestly do not know. It was a decent cover version, and rather amusing. The version of Grind that the show ended with positively smoking, with Wilson-Piper playing furious flamenco style guitar.

One other point of the show that i want to make is that the band were chatty. Kilbey and Wilson-Piper in particular interacted the crowd amicably, cracking sarcastic comments, making really bad puns, and telling stories about the songs, the tours (Kilbey’s story about touring with The Mighty Lemon Drops during the 80s was hilarious!), and how they met.

  The previous times I've seen The Church live, it always seemed like the band could barely stand to be on stage together. This evening was different, as everyone seemed relaxed and comfortable. This showed in the banter, both between the band members as well as with crowd. (Like PostLibyan, I thought the story about The Mighty Lemondrops was hysterical, if only because Steve Kilbey never could get to the point…) This chattiness helped the concert, making it seem more intimate and engaging than if they'd just come out and only played their songs. It just goes to show that sometime the ambience created by a band can be at least as important as the actual music in a live setting.  

This was definitely a show for the fans. And The Church showed us why we are fans, playing some great music and doing it well, while also showing their human side. This is one of those concerts that i will remember fondly for years to come. And the next time The Church come back, i will be there.

Kilbey, Powles, and Wilson-Piper.

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