When a band’s been a band for 42 years, writing and recording 25 albums’ worth of material, it’s fair to wonder if fans are going to catch the new stuff in live settings, or the old stuff, or bits of treasure from every era. For fans of Australia’s The Church, appearing in Salt Lake for a Saturday night show at The Commonwealth Room, here’s a message: rest easy tonight, you’re about to hear it all.
“We were talking about what we are going to play while having breakfast today,” founder Steve Kilbey said by phone earlier this week. “Looking at the setlist, it’s a fairly extensive thing, going right from the beginning to three tracks from the new album. I thought it was a pretty good representation and I think people should like it.”
With Kilbey now the only member of the band dating back to its early ‘80s incarnation, the band he’s surrounded himself with for this tour is “an all-star group” of contemporaries, players that he’s gigged with for years, for the most part. When reached this week, the group was Los Angeles for a round of rehearsals, just prior to their touring work on the west coast. Some warm-up dates in Australia preceded those.
“I’ll tell you what,” Kilbey says. “I’m really excited… well, excited is the wrong word to use. But I’m really looking forward to this. We did a couple of pre-shows in Sydney and the band is really locked-in during our rehearsals. We have a good bunch. I don’t think it used to matter to me as much, but we’ve got really excellent musicians who the render these songs quite flawlessly. Some of the songs on the new album are quite complex and I’m proud of the band in how they’re handling these complexities. If you like cerebral—but loud and walloping—music, I think we’re really delivering that at the moment.”
A few years back, when touring on a package with the Psychedelic Furs—a time when original guitarist Peter Koppes was in the fold—the band certainly brought the goods. True fans were treated to some deep cuts, though sharing a stage with another major band birthed in the ’80s meant trimming their set list back a bit, which served to emphasize hits like “Under the Milky Way” and “Reptile,” both played with skill and enthusiasm. And the latter’s not always easy to do, bands asked to perform songs that have decades on them, no matter how brilliant those tracks were (and are.) For this weekend’s show, there’s no opener, just music from The Church from start to finish.
So the deeper cuts have a chance to shine on this tour. And, luckily, Kilbey’s never stopped writing, collaborating with familiar musicians, all while incorporating new techniques. Such as the digital trading that was done on the latest round of recordings, the various players trading tracks from their home-based, professionally-outfitted studios.
We noted up top that the band’s 25th album is due later this year, and that’s true. Unfortunately, the album won’t be fully available until later in 2022. The good problem is that 19 tracks were recorded during those Australia/US recording sessions and Kilbey feels that all of that material’s worth release; so a second album could emerge from just those sessions.
But as a performer who’s released music as a solo artist and with short-run duos and other standalone projects, there’s always been the chance that more Kilbey-centered music is just around the corner.
“There’re always new things happening, all the time,” Kilbey says. “Can’t stop now.”
And seeing them live? Kilbey’s got an idea on that, too.
“It’s a great night,” he suggests, “to smoke a joint and listen to some rock’n’roll that had a lot of thought put into it. Thought and consideration.”
The Church play The Commonwealth Room on Saturday, May 7 at 8 p.m. This is a 21-up show, with $40 tickets; added info’s available at thestateroompresents.com.