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We took a dive into The Church’s acid-trip nightmares

Seeing The Church play live is a rare treat, and having them trawl through the highlights of their extensive back catalogue, replete with commentary from frontman and bassist Steve Kilbey, makes it all the more so. 

Known previously to drop crowd faves like ‘Under the Milky Way’ from a set, it was a relief and a delight for the Aussie post-punk, psychedelic, dream-rock legends to revisit those classics during a generous two-hour set in the still stinking hot 170 Russell. 
 
As support, DJ, author and radio presenter Steve Wide pointed the crowd in the right direction with an impeccable set list including the instantly recognisable classic ‘Cattle and Cane’ by other Aussie legends of a similar vintage, the Go-Betweens.
 
The fact that The Churches’ lyrics are often acid-trip nightmares became blindingly obvious with the set including songs like ‘Toy Head’ (“When you take off your head/ And you see the void yawn/ And you feel the bough break/ And a monster is born/ You walk away like a fool/ Darts fly into your flesh”). Kilbey’s singular vocals carries these yarns, as he cuts a theatrical, entertaining and dashing figure on stage.
 
Kilbey’s disdain for the band’s more popular songs is well known, and he was happy to let fly during the gig. For instance, ‘Metropolis’, the pop-gem single off 1990’s Gold Afternoon Fix is decried as a “stupid fucking song”, while he admitted to “playing this song for you, because I hate it” of ‘Unguarded Moment’. While the latter unloved child from the band’s 1981 debut album Of Skins and Heart might be an albatross around his neck, Kilbey at least looked like he was digging on the crowd’s ecstatic reaction: we might be philistines, be we know how to show our appreciation.
 
To wrap up the gig, Kilbey comes out from behind the bass and prowls the stage for ‘Miami’ during the band’s second encore. Lead guitarist and founding member Peter Kopppes ends up hunched double, and drummer Tim Powles (aka timEbandit) abandons his kit, roaming the stage with his tambourine as the song ascends into a bloody great wall of sound. The organised chaos is a perfect culmination of the gig.
 
Highlight: Sorry Kilbey, we know you’re sick to death of it, but hearing the ‘The Unguarded Moment’ live is nigh on a spiritual experience.
Lowlight: The fucker who wouldn’t stop talking in front, despite being shushed (not by me).
Crowd Favourite: ‘Under the Milky Way’, although Koppes looked totally bemused by use of the disco ball at opportune moments throughout the song.