The Church:: Norfolk, Va: “An Intimate Space” Live Review

Our correspondent Neil Delparto caught up with Australian legends The Church live at Norfolk, Va’s Norva. A small turnout made for a truly intimate affair as you’ll read below.

It’s hard to believe it’s been 30 years since Australia’s The Church released their debut single and album. In celebration the band has put together “An Intimate Space”, their 2010 USA tour (which wrapped on May 1st) – a special semi acoustic show which for the price of admission includes a fantastic tour program and CDEP (“Deadmans Hand”). The Church – Steve Kilbey, Marty Willson-Piper, Peter Koppes, and Tim Powles are fresh on the heels of their latest critically acclaimed 2009 LP “Untitled #23.” They have returned stateside with their 30th anniversary tour that’s already collected rave reviews from each stop. The set-list included one track off every LP in reverse chronological order, ending with a song from their debut release “The Church” (“Of Skins And Heart” in Australia”). The tour made its stop in Norfolk, Virginia on April 28, 2010 at the Norva Theater.

In the span of 30 years, The Church have maintained a steady dose of atmospheric overtones, shimmering guitars, and melodic nuggets – all of which were on display Wednesday night – the band’s fourth appearance in Hampton Roads (the last was in 2006). “Pangea” from “Untitled #23” kicked off the first set which would segue way into tracks from their recent LPs: “Uninvited Like The Clouds”, “El Momento Siguiente” (a jazzy tinged version of “Reptile”), “Forget Yourself”, as well as the internet only released “Back With Two Beasts”. “The Unguarded Moment” made an appearance in it’s stripped down “El Momento Disguidado” version with Willson-Piper adding awe-inspiring Spanish tinged guitar work at the songs close. One of the Church’s underrated late 90’s singles – “Louisiana” was another highlight of the evening with Koppes providing mandolin and Kilbey/Willson-Piper sharing lead vocals on this country driven arrangement.

The Church are best known for their 1988 Top 30 US hit “Under The Milky Way” – which surfaced as part of the band’s second set, along with a slew of their classic 80’s/90’s output. In quick succession the band launched into more of their Arista Records era catalogue – “Mistress” (from the band/fan favorite album “Priest=Aura”) and “Metropolis” – which Kilbey introduced as “our last commercial hit – 20 years ago.” Arguably the best performance of the night was the exquisite reworking of 1985’s “Already Yesterday” – complete with its breezy melody, Beatlesque drum rolls, and swirling harmonica solo. The Church closed out their second set with a quartet of welcome surprises: Willson-Piper’s “10,000 Miles”; the hypnotic “Fly” from 1983’s “Séance” LP; the acoustic bliss of “Almost With You”; and the excellent jingle jangle of “Tear It All Away”. The evening would close with two sets of encores including a somewhat pedestrian reading of The Smashing Pumpkins’ “Disarm” and the brilliant Church classic “Grind.”

Along with an evening of superb timeless classics, The Church entertained an intimate Norva Theater audience with a career worth of stories and in-between-song banter – reminiscing about past managers, the meaning of “mope rock”, car commercials, songs about sunglasses, and countless clever exchanges between Kilbey and Willson-Piper. It sure felt like a night out with old friends with the promise of more great music to come. If the last several years of critically acclaimed releases is any indication – we can hopefully prepare for another exciting chapter to be written.

Reptile (Live, The Norva – Norfolk, VA 04.28.10)

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