After being forced to cancel their previous date due to singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s vocal issues and a January announcement that the El Paso band would be releasing their first new album in 16 years, in•ter a•li•a, it was clear that excitement was in the air at the 9:30 Club when they returned for the make up date. Armed with new songs and a whole lot of old favorites from their first three albums, their performance made it clear that even though the band and its fans have aged quite a bit since their last album (2000’s Relationship Of Command), there wouldn’t be any holding back at the sold-out 9:30 Club. A nostalgia act? Not tonight.
35 years is a long time to be a band, but The Church celebrates that milestone this year. As if that weren’t impressive enough, they’ve also released their 25th album, Further/Deeper, and it’s as strong a record as any in their catalog. Last Monday, the band brought their latest tour (and first US outing in four years) to the 9:30 Club, their first show at the venue since touring in 1999 for their covers album, A Box of Birds. Although the band has seen several line-up changes over the years – the most recent being the replacement of long-time guitarist Marty Willson-Piper with Ian Haug (formerly of the Australian band Powderfinger) – and, as singer/bassist Steve Kilbey noted during the show, they haven’t seen a hit single since “Metropolis” in 1990, they show no sign of stopping or even slowing down.
In fact, they’re playing some of the most energetic shows of their career. Kilbey performs high kicks and yoga lunges with his bass in hand, showing up most frontmen half his age. Founding member and lead guitarist Peter Koppes anchors the band’s sound as he always has, yet seems more inclined to step forward and show off his impressive guitar skills. Tim Powles, who joined as the band’s drummer in 1993, keeps the beat going. Haug proves himself to be more than capable of taking his place within the band, filling in for Willson-Piper’s former role but managing to bring his own style and energy to it. The Church have a big sound befitting a large venue, and it is gratifying to see them finally playing in a space conducive to that sound in DC again.