As to the guitars on this stage, you will only find more 12 strings in Roger McGuinn’s house or a guitar shop. The resulting jangly surging melodies are infectious. I first became enamored of The Church when they opened for Echo and The Bunnymen decades ago, and their appeal remains.
Other than a bus breakdown in Chicago, by all accounts the current tour is going from strength to strength.
The enigmatic Marty Wilson-Piper has recently become ‘unavailable.’ Whether he has gone missing or more likely is reviewing Excel spreadsheets, no matter. Ian Haug has strapped on various guitars and has become a key foil for the founding members.
The band’s prolific output affords many choices to build their setlist. Over their 35 year career, the band has released 25 albums and myriad spinoff projects. At the intimate Bowery Ballroom in NYC they pulled several tracks from their new album Further/Deeper, the best of which was “Laurel Canyon.” The song echoes Steve Kilbey’s transcendant “The Dawn Poems,” but was penned by Haug.
Peter Koppes contributes most of the band’s signature guitar sound. Tim Powles is a machine on drums, keeping the band from veering off the rails.
Kilbey’s vocals still drift from dreamy to pleasantly nightmarish. (Look for his book about tarot at the merch table). He was often on bass, but occasionally passed the instrument off to concentrate more fully on lead vocals.
At one point he channeled the footwork of fellow Aussie (and equally ill equipped dancer Peter Garrett) during “Sealine.” Indeed the strident vocals of “The Disillusionist” were an echo of Midnight Oil.
“Metropolis” was a crowd favorite, and the hit from 1990 still resonates 25 years later. The other big radio hit, inevitably assayed toward the end of the evening was “Under the Milky Way,” which is what the satiated audience saw as they wandered into the crisp Manhattan air afterwards.