The Church – Live In Chicago

The ChurchThe Church at the House of Blues

Chicago, June 20, 2009

On the way to Chicago, The Church’s van blew a tire in Iowa. The members were fine-they made their way into the city eventually and they performed a nice set in front of a respectable crowd of adoring fans at the House of Blues on Saturday night-but what is remarkable about this story is that The Church, after 30 years of rock and roll, are still required to tour in a van.

We’re not talking about a punk band that’s expected to use such transportation as a sign of legitimacy. Hell, we’re not even talking about a band that’s peddling a nostalgia show to county fairs across America well past their prime. What we have with The Church is a fully functional and relevant neo-psychedelic rock band that paved the way for more famous chart-toppers that have recently found press by plagiarizing Joe Satriani and dissing Miley Cyrus.

After reaching their commercial apex with Starfish, the band has continued to release albums for two decades since their heyday (pun intended) with equal verve, but to a diminishing fan base. There is no logical explanation for this; their albums have been consistent and consistently good and-as The Church’s performance at the House of Blues in Chicago indicated-they’ve turned their years of experience into a transcendental live show.

Three original members remain: lead vocalist/bassist Steve Kilbey, guitarist Marty-Wilson Piper, and guitarist Peter Koppes, and the line-up is now augmented by drummer Tim Powles who’s been with the band for well over a decade. All four members display a natural rapport in their live setting, casually moving from straight-ahead guitar pop into full-on guitar freak-outs at the drop of a hat. Throughout the proceedings, the front three would swap instruments-yes, the band’s notorious Rickenbackers were regular participants-and all seemed focused on helping the band achieve liftoff, regardless of what guitar they were holding. Powering the flight? A series of small combo amps, a handful of effect pedals, and a touring keyboardist that provided a layer of aural mist for the rest of the members to float in and out of.

The median age of those in attendance had to be in their upper thirties-some even much older-and most seemed satisfied that the band did not simply adhere to a greatest hits set. The band did bring out three tracks from Starfish (including “Under The Milky Way”), but this tour is about supporting a wonderful new album, Untitled 23. The songs from the latest release meshed perfectly with the older material and the faithful seemed to already be converted to the notion that their new album may rank as one of the band’s finest.

And yes, the new album is indeed the twenty-third installment in their catalog.

If it weren’t for an incomplete telling of the tire incident, one wouldn’t have even known about the turmoil that preceded the show as all members were in top form. Kilbey’s gentle baritone floated above the sativa haze, Koppes occasionally broke character by going from complacent statue to middle-aged shredder, and Wilson-Piper-looking more like a member of The Black Crowes than the once pin-up boy of The Church-grinned incessantly during every one of his solo opportunities.

Afterwards, the band dutifully worked the merch table just like any new upstart band would, signing cds, posing for pictures, and politely listening to sentences beginning with “I remember seeing you in Anytown, USA back in 19XX…”

This is a band whose youthful exuberance and attention to detail deserves to be better recognized. It’s clear, even by the wear on their shoes that The Church is still playing rock and roll hand-to-mouth. What’s also clear is this unfortunate and unfair situation is actually helping them in some ways: its help keeping their music incredibly honest, vital, and on the right path creatively.

I’m just hoping that they find some roadside assistance from us along the way.

The Church’s Setlist from House of Blues, Chicago – June 20, 2009:



Day 5

North South East West


After Everything

Almost With You

Month of Sundays

Deadman’s Hand


You Took


Under The Milky Way



An Interlude

Space Savior

2nd Encore

Hotel Womb

The Church: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, wiki

2 thoughts on “The Church – Live In Chicago”

  1. That’s four songs from Starfish:

    North South East West

    Under the Milky Way


    Hotel Womb

    Good article though. I love Starfish. I saw them in 1988 with Tom Verlaine opening at the Riviera.

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