Catching up on Concert Reviews III: The Church live in Melbourne, 5 December 2009

12 Jan

The third concert I’ve been slack about reviewing was The Church, supported by The Kicks and Astreetlightsong, at the Corner Hotel in Richmond on 5 December 2009. I have one more review up my sleeve, but it’s for a concert sufficiently recent that I can pass it off without claiming to be catching up (phew!).

Having been to the Corner Hotel just a couple of nights previously to see Boom Crash Opera, I arrived at the venue to a much larger audience. Since I had come down with a bit of a cold at Mono and Laura the previous night, I had taken it easy during the day and my condition had improved enough that I could handle a concert. Nonetheless, I didn’t leave the house until absolutely necessary, and the consequence of this and Melbourne traffic meant I missed almost the entirety of The Kicks’ set. I walked in halfway through their final song. Now, at the end of Boom Crash Opera’s first opener, Tin Alley, there were perhaps 20 people in the Corner. Tonight? At least half full, probably more. The half a song I heard from The Kicks sounded decent, but that’s about all I can say about them. Sorry guys.

The second opener was Astreetlightsong, a very youthful band who clearly have some maturation ahead of them. From the start of their set, it was obvious the crowd were not interested. A wave of apathy permeated the building, and with every passing song, the applause was lighter and the chatting was louder. Tough crowd? I felt Astreetlightsong were playing decently, and they kept me sufficiently interested during their set that I wasn’t bored, though the restless crowd was certainly a distraction. Give Astreetlightsong a few years to refine their rock craft, create catchier hooks and deeper songs, and they may go far.

I hoped that the audience, although disinterested in Astreetlightsong, would come to life for The Church. I was swiftly disappointed. As soon as the initial cheering subsided and The Church were a minute into their opener, Tantalized, the conversations resumed. There was little in the way of singing or dancing, or really any visible enthusiasm. Those who weren’t carrying on with their mates just stood stock-still, as if to say “I’m not impressed yet”. You wouldn’t have known this was a much-loved Australian band playing to a sold-out audience that had packed in by the end of Astreetlightsong’s set. As for me? I thought Tantalized was a strong opener and personally engaging, even if the rest of the crowd weren’t so into it.

The set went downhill from there. A lot of the main set relied on post-eighties tracks, and you could tell the crowd was largely there for a nostalgia trip. The Theatre And Its Double in particular fell completely flat. The lack of atmosphere meant even the more well-known eighties songs failed to spark. North South East And West, although a personal highlight for me, did not entirely catch with the audience. By Pangaea, I had to tell a few drunk greying bogans behind me to be quiet or move on, and after a bit of heckling they mercifully did the latter (presumably just back to the bar to get even more inebriated) – for I had checked the setlists online and knew that You Took was next. I can’t speak for the rest of the crowd regarding this song, as I was too busy enjoying it, especially the fantastic sweeping intro. The Church played it masterfully.

Indeed, The Church played everything masterfully. It wasn’t really their fault the crowd wasn’t interested. The setlist drew upon a wide range of the band’s catalogue, and even had a note of humour, when they covered the Smashing Pumpkins’ Disarm in response to the Pumpkins covering a Church track. It was a surprisingly well executed cover, and those in the audience who were paying attention seemed to appreciate the humour and had a good time. They could have played some more eighties tracks – for example, removing Almost With You from the set after playing it in the US was undoubtedly a mistake – but I really don’t think it would have done much more than get a few people saying “oh I remember this” between sips of VB. The Unguarded Moment, at least, might’ve satisfied all the people who kept yelling for it.

Naturally, the audience was most attentive for Under The Milky Way and Reptile, which rounded out the main set. I’ve never understood Under The Milky Way’s popularity. It’s a pleasant enough song but nothing special, and in my own personal world – which doesn’t at all seem to reflect reality – it’s not even the band’s biggest hit. I was always more exposed to the likes of Almost With You, Reptile, and Already Yesterday. Clearly I’m an anomaly, since a couple of women near me who otherwise appeared quite bored perked up for this song and this song only.

The band played three encores, throughout which were sprinkled favourites of mine – An Interlude, Myrrh, and the concert closer Hotel Womb. However, it also included the one real dud of the night, On Angel Street. This song, from the band’s mediocre and plain recent album, Untitled #23 (a fittingly mediocre and plain title), is a repetitive test in patience, and if I hadn’t looked at the setlists and known Myrrh and Hotel Womb were still to come, I would have been tempted to join the people leaving, so disenchanted was I by the flat, lifeless feel in the venue. The Corner Hotel may be a much-loved and well-hyped venue in Melbourne music folklore, but it did nothing to justify its reputation at this gig. Try harder, Melbourne.

The setlist was:

1. Tantalized
2. Block
3. Day 5
4. North South East And West
5. Happenstance
6. The Theatre And Its Double
7. Disarm (Smashing Pumpkins cover)
8. A Month Of Sundays
9. Deadman’s Hand
10. Pangaea
11. You Took
12. Operetta
13. Under The Milky Way
14. You Took

15. An Interlude
16. Space Saviour

17. On Angel Street
18. Myrrh

19. Hotel Womb

Frontman and bassist Steve Kilbey throughout the concert was spruiking an acoustic gig the band were playing the next night at the Fitzroy Workers’ Club. If I wasn’t exhausted from three shows in three nights and recovering from my cold, I probably would have gone, and looking back on the setlist, which featured Almost With You and The Unguarded Moment, I very much wish I had! Reports indicate it had a much more enthusiastic and receptive atmosphere too. Well, you win some and you lose some. I give this concert 2.5/5 – averaged out between 4/5 for the band and 1/5 for the miserable and dull audience.

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