How great a live band are the Church? Great enough to make me reconsider my career plans. In October, 1998, I was fed up with the music industry. My love of music was embittered by trying to make a living with it, specifically in seeing too many stupid people success. So I was embarking on a new career by going to library school. But in the middle of an intensive weekend of grad school classes, I saw the Church. I'd seen them several times previously but not in about eight years. To use a bad pun, it was a religious experience, utterly transformative. I altered my job plans and became determined to incorporate music into my career in librarianship, which I have done successfully.
A year later, they were back in Chicago. Guitarist Marty Willson-Piper was once again absolutely on fire, but the band's performance as a whole didn't coalesce. A few days later, lead singer/bass player Steve Kilbey was busted in New York for buying heroin. Draw your own conclusions.
Best known for their 1988 hit "Under the Milky Way," that is hardly their best song or even the best song on Starfish, the album it came from. I'd have to go with "Reptile," which couples an original analogy with a sharper guitar lead. To resurrect one of my own better analogies, I'll copy what I wrote about the band in B-Side Magazine in 1990:
Gold Afternoon Fix is a walk across a velvet blanket spread over a bed of rounded stones. The surface is lush and inviting, but conceals a convoluted terrain underneath, unexpected but never too jagged. Dense and slightly impenetrable, the Church's music stands up to or requires repeated listening. No "I'm in love with her and I feel fine" simplicities here. Like mental New Year's Eve confetti, it soars immediately and ultimately finds its way into unlikely nooks in the mind; months later, those bits of pastel paper caught in one's shoe or pocket recall that blurry, forgotten celebration.The Church play Sea Ray at the House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn, Chicago, 312.923.2000 at 9 p.m. on Friday, March 12.