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Worthy of Praise

By John Brodeur

The Church, Adam Franklin

The Egg, July 10


After almost 30 years of making records and touring the world as part of Australian rockers the Church, Steve Kilbey and Marty Willson-Piper still geek out when they see a King Crimson T-shirt. Kilbey admitted from onstage Friday night that, when he bought Larks’ Tongues in Aspic at age 18, he never imagined he’d one day see a guy trade a Crimson shirt for one sporting his band’s logo. But Willson-Piper asked for it. Perhaps he was joking, but he did say, “Can I have that shirt?” The fan was only obliging; he surely never imagined he’d one day surrender his Larks’ Tongue shirt to one of his favorite bands.

This kind of devotion was felt throughout most of the Church’s long set at the Egg. The smallish crowd (200-250) went absolutely wild for the Australian psych-rock group from the opening “Tantalized,” which found Willson-Piper chopping away at his Rickenbacker like a man unhinged. (His shaggy appearance, somewhere between hipster and homeless, only added to the spectacle.) The band—whose lineup also includes co-founding guitarist Peter Koppes and longtime drummer Tim Powles—came off the starting block with purpose; the fact that the song was drawn from their Heyday LP was perhaps an unintended joke.

What’s no joke is the group’s track record: Friday’s set emphasized the current decade, and the new material not only stood with, but sometimes outshined, the old. A pair of tracks from 2006’s Uninvited, Like the Clouds were early highlights, especially the pleading “Block.” Here, Koppes switched to the 12-string electric that defined some of their best-known songs as Kilbey reflected on his, and man’s, shortcomings (“Even Jesus Christ was betrayed by a kiss”) with his conversational baritone.

The dark, acoustic-driven new song “Happenstance,” from this year’s Untitled #23, was another high point, pairing sonic elements from the band’s classic work with interesting three-part voice arrangement (Powles pitched in frequently with backing vocals); it recalled Radiohead’s “Karma Police” in its chorus. And the back-catalog picks—early classics like “Almost With You” and “Month of Sundays”—sparkled with a quality often referred to as “jangly.”

Which brings us to “the hit.” The Church’s 1988 Starfish album was a bit more produced than their previous work, and resulted in their only U.S. Top 40 single, “Under the Milky Way.” Now, there is little doubt that this is an excellent song; there’s a reason it still turns up on ’80s CD compilations. But Kilbey’s introduction to it on Friday sounded like a preemptive apology, and the performance was forceful but flat: They just didn’t seem like they enjoyed playing it. In front of a crowd that knew the words to even their latest material, they really didn’t have to. Smartly, that was redeemed with the frenetic “Reptile,” which brought the fans out of the seats and onto the theater floor for a miniature throwback dance party.

Swervedriver/Toshack Highway man Adam Franklin opened the night with his new band, Bolts of Melody. The vintage Fender Jazzmaster is the instrument of choice for Franklin and, in true shoegaze fashion, he guided dreamy clouds of sound from his six strings—as well as some wild squalls of guitar feedback.

Photo: Julia Zave

Heavy Metal Parking Lot

California commercial-punk legends the Offspring headlined the Big Day Out festival at Saratoga Performing Arts Center on Sunday. The band are touring in support of last year’s Bob Rock-produced Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace. The daylong show also featured sets from alt-metal brooders Staind, Daughtry-approved rockers Shinedown, plus radio staple-makers Chevelle and Sum 41. The festival was sponsored by radio station WHRL 103.1 FM.




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