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.
As expected from a band touring a new release, the setlist was heavy on tracks from Further/Deeper, with six of the eighteen songs coming from the album. Yet the band didn’t forget about their past either, playing a sampling of tracks from a number of their past albums. Opening the show with an extended version of “Is This Where You Live” from their 1981 debut ablum, Of Skins and Heart, the band updated the song in a way that was still familiar, yet felt current. New tracks “Delirious” and “Laurel Canyon” segued perfectly into “You Took” from 1982’s The Blurred Crusade. Of course the band’s two most remembered tracks from their time in the charts, “Under the Milky Way” and “Reptile,” were represented, the latter closing out the encore with the band swathed in green light.
What’s next for The Church? Only time will tell, but based on the strength of the new album, this show, and reports from numerous cities where they’ve played, the band is entering into a new era.
Brooklyn, NY based band The Sharp Things opened the show.
All photos by Matt Condon. Click to embiggen.