It’s been 30 years since The Church put out their iconic 1988 album, Starfish, and tonight saw them back in Perth on the last leg of what has been a four month tour celebrating it’s release. Despite having seen the band many times over the years (in fact I think I actually saw them touring this album when it came out), this was the first time I’d seen them play anywhere like the luxuriant confines of Perth Concert Hall and as we took our seats, I couldn’t help but wonder how the band’s performance would translate to such a venue.
But, of course, I shouldn’t have worried. Any trepidation I was feeling instantly vanished as the band made their way onto the stage and began what turned out to be a totally mesmerising show. Kicking off with Destination, the first half of tonight’s performance saw the band play Starfish in it’s entirety. They followed up with Under the Milky Way, with Steve Kilbey joking “if you just came for that song you can leave now”. Needless to say, nobody left. We were all hooked.
With red and blue lighting creating a haunting scene as it reflected off the billowing smoke behind them, the band continued on with Kilbey in fine form, effortlessly engaging his captivated audience between songs. All of the album favourites were there. Blood Money, Antenna, Reptile. Having not listened to the album in quite some time, this was like revisiting a familiar, old friend with The Church drawing their audience in and taking them on a blissful musical journey. Hotel Womb saw the end of the Starfish performance. With Kilbey promising that we would be treated to some “Strange, rare, cruel and unusual” songs in the second set, the band made their way from the stage as the house lights came up and the majority of the crowd filed out for a brief intermission.
Opening up with Anaesthesia and a personal favourite, Metropolis, the second half of tonight’s performance saw the band delving into their considerable back catalogue much to the delight of their enthralled audience. Kilbey, who was obviously at ease and appeared to be enjoying himself on stage, at one point even picked up a set of pan pipes that he had bought at a convenience store in Wyoming and busted out an impromptu interpretive number, apparently the instructions that came with them “were in cuneiform”, before the band continued on.
Almost with You, an obvious crowd favourite, drew many of the punters up out of their seats and into the aisles dancing and singing happily along. Ripple, from 1992’s Priest=Aura was followed by Tantalized which signaled the end of the second stanza, as The Church left the stage to thunderous applause and loud calls for an encore which, of course, they duly provided. Returning to deliver their classic track, The Unguarded Moment, which again had members of the audience dancing in the aisles, they finished off the night with Miami before taking their leave one by one to a wall of swirling, effect driven feedback provided by guitarists Peter Koppes and Ian Haug who had left their instruments reverberating on stage.
Despite being on stage for over two hours, this was one of those great performances that felt as if it was over almost before it had begun with The Church proving, as if they needed to, that they are still, after almost 40 years, one of Australia’s premier live acts. I just hope that I’m still around when they tour for the 60th anniversary of the release of Starfish.
Photos by Linda Dunjey