The Church, The Triffids , Ed Kuepper @ Red Hill, Perth (04/12/11)

The first wave of Summer kisses lingered in the air at Red Hill Auditorium as patrons to the finest purveyors of Australian modern music filtered their way in to dibs one of the 12 couches dotted around the venue.

The billing of Ed Kuepper, The Triffids and The Church proved to be a lineup of nirvana, as each act throughout the course of their respective sets proved (despite their pedigrees) that the passion and prowess of the music is timeless.

The duo of Ed Kuepper and Mark Dawson opened proceedings to a small and faithful crowd, voice surging with urgency as the sun began its mighty decent over the city bathing Red Hill in an orange glow that itself was an experience. Kuepper delved into his prodigious back catalogue with Miracles and set closer Everything I got belongs to you being the stand-out performances.

The Triffids (and friends) strolled on stage to an eloquently inebriated poem and with Mick Harvey as appointed band leader, glided their way into a performance of the seminal Born Sandy Devotional record. With a revolving door of vocalists including Rob Snarski, Jill Burt, Simon Breed and Oh Mercy’s Alex Gow, each song took its own shape and form. None of the power and urgency of original vocalist Dave McCombs was mislaid as each singer expertly tapped into the soul of each song, backed by a sumptuous sound of violins, vibes, ‘Evil’ Graham Lees’ pedal steel and the effortless power of Martyn Casey’s bass playing. Wide Open Road and Stolen Property lifted the hearts of all in earshot of Red Hill.

As the sun said goodbye for the day, The Church got ready to ramp the night up a notch or three. An eerie extended string intro to Aura from Priest = Aura provided the mood as the band casually strolled stageward and proceeded to rewrite their own books for the next 60+ minutes with a display of musicianship not witnessed in far too long.

This Church show was unexpected; they attacked each song with a verve that seems only attainable by bands that are usually three years old, certainly not by a band that’s released over 30 records. When the universally recognisable bass intro to You Took plucked its way around the auditorium early in the set, what is known as a quintessential Church ‘epic’ surely enough rose above that title into a term that can rather meekly be described as ‘jaw-dropping’. This was one rendition that sent senses tingling for well over 10 minutes. The Church took their music, reverse engineered it and turned each song into elastic stereo space jam, making most of the dynamic range and taking it to the next level (for want of a hackneyed cliche).

Following the atmospheric Destination Steve Kilbey quipped ‘I can just see the reviews now, ’ The pungent aroma of marijuana filled the air…..’’. He beat the reviewers to it, nonetheless it seems fitting to mention his pre-emptive quip. But then, when is the pungent aroma of jazz cigarettes not a distinguishable feature of a Church show?

The band threw themselves into everything, even when there was nothing to be thrown into. Kilbey has become Australia’s own psychedelic preacher, and when not plucking at a Fender VI he was taking a stab at some unusual interpretative dance which, in the context of the performance, was breathtaking to see. Peter Koppes moved and shook his mane of curly locks, coaxing a sound from his multiple amplifiers that defied the laws of guitar (and perhaps physics). Marty Willson Piper, who seemed more subdued than usual, nevertheless rang his trademark jangles with ease against Koppes’ wall of sound and Tim Powles eloquently guided his band-mates through the show with power and drum mallets.

As with all Church shows, the song list was carefully monitored and at Red Hill the audience were treated to a selection heavy on tracks from Priest = Aura and Untitled #23 (with some ‘classics’ thrown in for measure). The mid-set triptych was the most engrossing 20 minutes one could experience; Ripple turned into a colossal one note drone jam, Swan Lake glistened in its innocence only for Chaos to take on a new skin to give Sonic Youth a run for its money in the noise/chaos department.

As curfew loomed the latest ‘unofficially-sanctioned national anthem’ Under the Milky was given its due before the grandiose Disillusionist and an exultant rendition of Can’t let it go left the crowd on a natural high.

Returning with an encore of a rapturous rendition of Reptile, the evening ended with the crowd floating to the exit with a rush of endorphins and a memory full of joy.