Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Amen: Australian Rockers The Church Reward My Leap of Faith -- Chicago Concert Review

Concert Review

The Church
City Winery, Chicago
July 3, 2017 (also played 7/4)

If seeing every worthwhile rock act in concert at least once is the clearly impossible yet fun-to-pursue goal, two segments in which I've long been lacking, lagging or latent are New Wave-type bands and Australian acts.

In terms of the former, I've only fairly recently caught Duran Duran, Tears for Fears, New Order, Pet Shop Boys, The Fixx and the Jesus & Mary Chain, though have seen The Cure and Depeche Mode repeatedly, have tickets for Echo & the Bunnymen and Blondie this month and expect to see The Alarm and A Flock of Seagulls at Skokie's Backlot Bash at the end of August.

I've also seen Johnny Marr but never Morrissey (I tried, but he cancelled). No Psychedelic Furs, Erasure, Simple Minds or English Beat, etc.

In terms artists from the land down under, I consider AC/DC and Midnight Oil among my 20 favorite bands, and have seen each multiple times--though not until this century, far later than my fandom--but never got to shows by INXS, Men at Work, Nick Cave or Crowded House and only learned of the Hoodoo Gurus and The Saints just last year.

Formed in Sydney in 1980, The Church would seem to represent an intersection of both these sectors.

And until Sunday, I couldn't name any of their songs except "Under the Milky Way," a minor U.S. hit in 1988.

But I somehow noted their shows Monday and Tuesday at Chicago's City Winery, recalled conversations extolling them, embarked on a crash course of Spotifamiliarization based on recent setlists and liked what I heard enough to buy a ticket for Night 1.

Without any disrespect meant, as the ambiance is perfectly nice, the staff quite friendly, I got a free parking space a block away and appreciated being able to sit through the show for a reasonable price, City Winery is far from my favorite concert venue.

More power to those who enjoy consuming pricey meals and wine throughout a rock concert, but I prefer my venues a bit dingier and scruffier, and in part due to the sedate atmosphere that kept things at low boil throughout, I can't say I found The Church to be spiritually transcendent.

But the truth is I wouldn't have gone to seen them at the standing-room-only Metro or an outdoor festival--the Riv or Vic could've worked--and though short of being truly uplifted, I substantively enjoyed the show.

Certainly it helped that I had familiarized myself somewhat thoroughly, though quickly, with most of what they played--see the Church setlist on songs came off of 9 different albums dating back to 1980, augmented by a pair of new tunes (one not yet released).

As is my wont, I preferred the ones with beguiling hooks and a bit of punch: "Metropolis," "North, South, East and West," "Reptile" and "The Unguarded Moment," one of the better songs of the '80s to which I was heretofore oblivious (undoubtedly there are others).

The beautifully ethereal "Under the Milky Way" was also given an excellent delivery, and among nothing not enjoyable, the brand new "Don't Know Why" was another tune I particularly liked.

Only singer/bassist Steve Kilbey and Peter Koppes still remain from the original Church, and with a number of chirpy comments I somewhat perceived that the latter was trying to mess with the former a bit.

Without implying any mean-spirited petulance, Koppes also seemed to have trouble finding a guitar that worked right, even throwing one to the ground at one point (the quickly-responsive roadie seemed to be doing his best).

Obviously, I don't know enough of The Church's history to accurately gauge relations among band members, including recent guitarist Ian Haug, a young multi-instrumentalist whose name I don't know and drummer-since-1994 Tim Powles, who was the first I remember to use a tambourine to hit the drums (on "Metropolis").

But a bit of cheekiness, or whatever, actually added some life to a show whose (metaphorical) electricity was limited by its environs.

Especially as I try to explore artists I haven't previously seen, or perhaps even much known, not every concert is going to be by an all-time favorite in the most preferable places.

But just because, for me, The Church at the City Winery couldn't match their  countrymen Midnight Oil at the Vic--few could--that doesn't mean the 105-minute show wasn't quite good and worthwhile.

The Church may not have made me a true believer, but--with a number songs I now relish--they certainly instilled greater reverence than I ever had before.

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