Traveling over to Sydney to see this once in a lifetime show was filled with many ‘first-of-moments’. It’s the first time I’ve been to Sydney as an adult, first time I’d ever been to the Sydney Opera House, first time I’ve been involved with the design of tour t-shirts for the *church*, first time I got to meet the ever-lovely Sue Campbell and a lot of other *church* fans from all over, first time I’ve ever seen the *church *play a gig outside of distant Perth, first time that the *church* have played with a full orchestra (not including the ARIA’s), first time I’ve been interviewed for a documentary and first time I’ve ever been to any concert that was filmed.
Leaving all the obvious puns aside, if I had to sum up the show in one word, it would be “overwhelming” BUT overwhelming in the best possible way imaginable. My senses are still reeling four days after the event. There was simply so much to take in all at once. I was sitting four rows back from the front in between Steve and Marty (yes, not a bad place to be sitting) so I could see almost everything but my ears were not capable of processing all that they heard at once. There was a lot to distinguish – a LOT happening on stage, my head turning from side-to-side to switch from Peter to Marty in order to catch as much guitar interplay as possible – would trade secrets be revealed on stage by these guitar-slingers? Yes, I spied a couple of techniques I’d previously missed. Having an e-bow roadie comes in handy (MWP) when switching from pick to e-bow as these devices are notoriously tricky to /instantly /get the string(s) vibrating (Myrrh).
I wished that the *church* could have played 2 nights so that I could have seen it a second time, perhaps from a different vantage point so as to take in more of what was happening on stage in a widescreen perspective. At times, I thought the guitars were too low in the mix, and other times I could not hear the orchestra as clear as I wanted to over the band. The vocals to me were just right, though the back-up singers (the churchettes – Tiare & Shelley) could’ve been a little louder to my ear. I look forward to the DVD/CD as it’ll give me the opportunity to relive the experience again and again, being able to pick up on the nuances I missed on the night.
The whole time during the performance, I was sitting there with a permanent grin on my face, in deep awe or totally captivated by what was going on. Yeah, it was that good – other fans have mentioned tears welling up, a little lump in the back of the throat, goose bumps, shivers and so on – all these feelings at different times… After the show, Marty asked me what I thought and I replied “the awesome bits were awesome” MWP repeated those words back at me in his smooth accent “the awesome bits were awesome”, and then sniggered. Pretty lame response from me for such a huge undertaking and brilliant performance by the band and all involved, I know. I think I may have just been a little lost for words or tongue-tied, well what I meant to say is all of the above and below… Marty I hope you’re reading?
*Before the show.*
I arrived a little early to make sure I had time to meet some other fans at the Opera Bar before the show. I also had a look at what was on offer from the merch’ stand. It was the usual fare plus the addition of two new shirts made especially for this show. This is definitely the highest attended *church* concert I’ve ever been to and the smartest dressed audience ever to grace a *church* gig. There was close to about 1800 people hovering around the foyer/bar area. I was taken aback by the sheer number of people and realised trying to find friends inside the venue will be trickier than first anticipated. Meet ups would have to wait until intermission and after the show.
/Now – the show with commentary on each song in performance order./
*The set list:*
(orchestra only playing and the band walked on stage towards the end of the song just in time for Steve to grab the mic and croon “there’ll never be another quite like you” very sweet, it set the tone nicely).
(this was a surprise full-band opener, I had hoped for Aura off P+A as the opener as I thought the orchestra playing the intro would be an other-worldly experience, alas Aura would not make the set-list).
(My first highlight. When I first bought Starfish upon release, Lost was one of my least favourite tracks from the album. When Starfish was remastered and re-released a few years back now, it became one of my favourite songs on the entire album – the accompaniment of orchestra on this track was lush, full and beautiful. The domp domp dooooom de domp domp dooooom double bass / bass part was melancholy to die for).
*Almost With You*
(Highlight 2. An early all-hands-on-deck stellar song with Wes Gregorace on bass, back-up singers doing their thing on the chorus – we were treated to a show stopper early during proceedings).
(Never been a fan of this song, but it flowed along as deliciously).
(Highlight 3. I really dig this slowed down soft version, loved it the first time I heard it on El Momento Descuidado too and tonight it worked like a charmer. Steve’s deep soft vocals accompanied by acoustic guitars and orchestra were a crowd pleaser).
(Highlight 4. To use an acronym here. OMG. This was pure church, guitar interplay, tight drums, clever orchestral arrangements adding to the wall of sound – bliss).
(Highlight 5. This is my favourite PK *church *song so hearing it at this show with double bass et all was a treat – great stuff PK, great stuff indeed).
acoustic to electric with piano interlude, orchestra leave stage after piano part.
(Highlight 6. This song has always been a crowd pleaser so it’s inclusion at the end of the first set was a no-brainer. A clever closer, going from acoustic to electric, giving the orchestra their stage exit right. Wow – f*cking wow).
*Happy Hunting Ground*
(Highlight 7. I was thrilled when the orchestra started playing this song. I knew straight away by the percussion that it was HHG. This was beautiful, my humble words can’t describe how lovely this was to hear being played by a full orchestra).
*Mr Guy Fawkes*
(The Dave Millar Set – cover).
(I was told the *church* were playing a cover song at this show the night before. A cover they’d never played before so this came as a surprise and I’m sad to report that this was the first time I’d heard this gem – my music education continues through the *church* band).
(Highlight 8. I was SO thrilled when Steve introduced this song. I absolutely love hearing this live and the orchestra on the chorus was stunning – this one will get many repeat plays once I receive the DVD).
(this was blistering awesome – a live favourite and one of their most radio friendly songs. I remember first hearing this on 96fm in Perth before it’s single release many moons ago).
*Two Places at Once*
(Two Basses at Once)
(This for me was the standout song of the night. It was performed absolutely flawlessly. The vocal interplay and harmonies were spot on, shivers went down my spine. MWP’s voice commands attention, and when he sings, you’re drawn in, incapable of hearing anything else other than his voice. Steve introduced the song and then said it should perhaps be called Two Basses at Once, pointing to Johnny Zwartz on the double bass behind. I’ll mention at this point, that the double bass added a depth to the entire performance that was beyond deep and intense, hearing the next song’s bass line performed on double bass would introduce a new level of pitch and menace not before heard on The Disillusionist. I’ll also add here while on the subject of double bass, that I think Johnny spent a lot of time during the night’s performance worrying that SK may step back into his playing while SK’s theatrical performance was occurring).
(Highlight 9. I was surprised they put this one on the set list. It was a welcome surprise for me but I got the impression the casual fan was a bit put out by the brutality of the performance. As mentioned above, the double bass gave the song a grounded depth unheard of before. The change of key in the song was most intense – or as I put to MWP later, this awesome part was awesome to the ear of this intent listener. I look forward to hearing this on the DVD. It’ll certainly be interesting to see the reaction of the audience as captured on the crane camera).
(MWP stole the light and held it in check for the duration of this number. The tightness of the entire performance was gob-smackingly-tight. The song break that goes from full band/orchestra to MWP’s single guitar chugging through the rhythm chords impressed, once again, the hard core fans and new believers alike – reminding all of the super talent that is MWP, great stuff, great stuff indeed).
*On Angel Street*
(Highlight 10. What can be said of this slow gem that hasn’t already been said when performed live? I was pleased with this song’s inclusion. SK transported us all to another place with his crooning beckoning vocal delivery. For a moment we weren’t strangers at all – we all had front row seats to a break-up song to break all hearts).
*Under the Milky Way*
(The most popular Australian song of the last 3 million years according to SK. We all knew it was coming, it was only a matter of time. It’s been a live staple for decades sans a few years they dropped it from their set list in typical *church* fashion. A crowd pleaser as always *big smiles everywhere*).
(Highlight 11. This song was written to be played live. It rocks, it rolls, it’s the *church* ADD psychedelic symphony and you have magic – standing ovation 1).
(Highlight 12. this was so charming – loved it – orchestra compliments beautifully)
(Highlight 13. This was another standout song for me. I’ve always loved this song from the very first time I heard it on AENT. Flawless performance and a great insight into the lyrical mind of SK. I have to mention how impressed I was with TP’s drumming in particular towards the end on this song. TP was mixing it up with various percussive changes after the medley section, playing fast high-hat/cymbal variations that worked so amazing well with the rest of the rhythm section creating the sensation of being taken away by train as referenced in the first verse of the song – skillful sticks indeed. I’ll add here how solid a performer TP was throughout the night’s – he’s the backbone of the band, he can belt the skins and hold back-up vocals simultaneously without missing a beat. He seems to have 3 – 4 items in his hands at any one time. TP – the multi-tasking drummer AND has anyone else noticed that one of TP’s sons is a James Franco look-a-like? – standing ovation 2 for the performance of Invisible and not how good looking TP’s son is)
(Operetta was performed with gusto, lush soundscapes and all the ingredients that make it classic *church*– it’s just not one of my favourite *church* songs. I would have preferred to have heard Hotel
Womb here instead).
(I knew this song would close proceedings – its an obvious show stopper and what an awesome performance we all experienced on the night. The jam nature of this song was incorporated quite tightly with the orchestra, MWP giving Mr Ellis the nod when the timing was right for the change – if you’ve heard this live and which *church *fan hasn’t, you know exactly which part of the song I’m talking about – standing ovation 3. For a few minutes there, I thought the band would come back on the stage as the orchestra stayed in their seats, then slowly by the handful, the orchestra rose and left the stage – the Psychedelic Symphony had drawn to a close)
There’s many anecdotes I can add here but will refrain as I think a lot of you will enjoy the experience of the live DVD and sharing too much may spoil the viewing experience. After all, we like a surprise now and then, don’t we?
Steve was jovial and had some splendid jokes on hand.Peter was restrained and played like the seasoned pro he is.
Marty was Marty who never ceases to impress.
Tim was the backbone and main instigator of the concert so well done TP you managed to pull it off marvelously.
Tiare & Shelley were the churchettes bringing a feminine vocal touch that complimented the performance.
Craig Wilson is more than a utility player, he’s the 5th member of the band.
George Ellis, the Greek god of orchestra conductors (according to SK), the glue that held it all together.
The guest musicians/soloists – you were all simply amazing.
The orchestra – you were all amazing and played a big part in one of the most significant concerts of the *church’s* 30+ year career.
Thank you one and all!
For me there was a massive build-up heading towards this one-off show, my expectations were very high and at end of the of the night and after coming back to Perth from Sydney and letting the events of last weekend sink in, I now realise that the Psychedelic Symphony FAR exceeded my already very high expectations. I was glad to have made the trek over 🙂