Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Concert Review: The Church, Showcase Live, Foxborough, MA, July 2, 2009

Steve Kilbey was in particularly good spirits. He praised the venue, noting that the green room was nicer than the whole gig in Detroit. And the place was swell, but it's also a little sad that the Church are playing a club specializing in nostalgia acts and tribute bands, on the far outskirts of Boston with plenty of free parking to appeal to suburb parents like me. Yes, the band got the biggest response to their '80s hits, but the newer material holds its own, especially the enthralling "Space Saviour" off their latest release, Untitled #23. Marty Willson-Piper fingers are just as nimble as ever, and he remains a psychedelic guitar demon.

They opened with "Tantalized," and its swells and delirium magically transported me back to the first time I saw them, touring in support of Heyday in 1986. I felt like I was about to lose control of my bowels. The set bridged their career although was heaviest on #23 and their U.S. commercial peak Starfish.

Steve Kilbey was fit and tanned. While Marty Willson-Piper's long hair made him look like a romantic goth in the '80s, its uniform length, flecks of frizzy gray and his beard have transformed him into an aging hippie. Peter Koppes is merely aging gracefully. The three traded duties and instruments throughout the evening. Koppes and Willson-Piper swapped lead guitar. Willson-Piper and Kilbey swapped their bass and, for some songs, a battered acoustic guitar that looked as though it were held together with electrical tape.

When they exited the stage, someone in the audience yelled out, "You're still beautiful!" While it probably was a request rather than an effort to inveigle the band to return for an encore, especially since he subsequently called out other song titles, it was appropriate sentiment. They were clearly having fun, especially churning out feedback during the two encores.

The Church continued their tradition of having the former frontman of a '90s shoegazer band open for them. In 2006, it was Rob Dickinson of the Catherine Wheel. This time it was Adam Franklin of Swervedriver. The difference is that the Catherine Wheel were rather distinctive in the movement. But, quick, think of a Swervedriver song. Yeah, I couldn't either. Or maybe that one was by Chapterhouse. Franklin and his band built up quite a guitar-based din at times bur rather lacked for well-structured songs.

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