The Church – Bowery Ballroom

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.

(photo by Brad Auerbach)

(photo by Brad Auerbach)

(photo by Brad Auerbach)

(photo by Brad Auerbach)

(photo by Brad Auerbach)

(photo by Brad Auerbach)

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.


Brad Auerbach has been covering the media, entertainment and technology scene for many years. He has written for Time Out London, Village Voice, LA Weekly and once upon a time won a New York State College Journalism Award.

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  • Robert Deal

    The Church are now and have always been one of the greatest bands on the planet.

  • Pink-lead

    Saw the boys in Denver and loved it. The best thing about them not being huge is the fact that they play at intimate venues. So much better for live music.

  • Steve Kilbey

    midnight oil..?! ha ha ha. man you is barking up the wrong tree!

  • JohnE

    No ‘Unguarded Moment’…??? Hahahahaha!!!

  • Teebee

    this was a thoroughly mediocre show – for a band that’s been together this long, very disappointing.

  • Dave Jackson

    saw them in LA and San Diego….Ian had some big shoes to fill and did it seamlessly.The band rocked out..they had always excelled Live. Blurred crusade..brilliant as was The disillusionist..Reptile..a classic . Peter Koppes one of the best Aussie guitarists of all time..Thanks Boys