Like many perceived heritage acts, The Church understand the currency of riding the ‘entirety’ wave and trotting out an old favourite LP to whip up public fervour and attendant ticket sales. Unlike most heritage acts, they are also riding the wave of a successful and relevant new LP, so tonight we are promised the best of both worlds; a yesteryear trip through the seminal Blurred Crusade followed by a journey into Further/Deeper. Cider in hand, we strap ourselves in.
Anticipation is high, the Factory Theatre sold out to capacity, and as the lights go down and 'Almost With You' kicks off proceedings, drinks are spilled immediately as dad dancing and delirious singalongs ignite throughout the hall.
Steve Kilbey is beaming, Peter Koppes characteristically awkward, and new kid Ian Haug asserting himself with a shy swagger as he finds his feet with the older tracks. This is the first time I’ve seen them do the old shit without Marty and they’re pulling it off and then some. The material itself is their friend in this regard, as The Blurred Crusade is studded with gems. 'When You Were Mine' ups the pace before a stately and rarely aired 'Field of Mars' brings the atmosphere, the surging bass in its chorus both urgent and yearning.
The album unfolds with a growing warmth, its bedroom intimacy translating surprisingly well to the environs of the hall. 'You Took' is epic, stretching out and building, exercising its full eight minutes, before a quick detour into 'Don’t Look Back' and a joyous 'Life Speeds Up' heralds the climax of the first set. People’s eyes seem all aglitter as they race to grab the brief opportunity for a post-coital smoke.
Perhaps in order not to tempt fate and dog momentum, Steve assures us that "We won’t be playing the entire new one", before the squalling wail of Vanishing Man’s intro signals our decent further/deeper. Bass laid aside, Steve flails about, unsure of his arms, as what could very well be Faris Badwan’s younger brother joins the band on backing bass, keys and detached air of youth. The song crackles with urgency as Steve’s arms find ever more purchase in the air, his delivery growing more insistent as it threatens to become the highlight of the set - at least until ‘Delirious’ follows. Their enjoyment at breathing life into the newer songs is wholly palpable.
'Toy Head' and 'Laurel Canyon' pre-empt a detour to 'Metropolis' from early 90’s wet fart Gold Afternoon Fix, before a trippy, brooding 'Disillusionist' rides in from Priest=Aura, Kilbey’s thinly veiled confessional still famous from the waist down. This is the peak. The Church at their nagging, insistent finest.
If the peak of the show quixotically enough took the form of a doomy valley, then the remainder of the set has an altogether breezier air. More new tracks follow before an obligatory sojourn under the Milky Way and a spirited Miami round out the set. They’re back again briefly to run through a Powderfinger cover and round out the evening with a very wobbly rendition of 'Reptile', but it seems to matter little. The reception is rapturous, and Kilbey’s smile seems genuine, if almost surprised.
The Church just keep on keeping on, and at their best are still a vital, relevant and engaging band, capable of celebrating their legacy whilst still looking resolutely forward. One wonders just how many more laps we’ll get, but on tonight’s showing, their immediate future seems well assured. Bring on the Séance tour.