Concert Reviews

The Church at The Opera House

Toronto, Ont. August 7, 2015: Australian psych rock legends The Church performed their classic 1982 album The Blurred Crusade in its entirety, followed by another 100-minute set, drawing largely from their 25th album Further/Deeper. The Toronto show at The Opera House kicked off a 27-date North American tour they’re co-headlining with The Psychedelic Furs for 20 dates.

I first caught The Church live in Toronto way back in ’90 at The Danforth Music Hall, where they were slated to perform this time round. Switching venues just days before the gig, the 200 or so fans were treated to a more intimate and engaging performance. They hadn’t played Toronto since a gig at The Warehouse back in 1999 if I recollect correct.

Lead singer/bassist Steve Kilbey was rather reserved for most of the first set, only really speaking up in between songs when he proclaimed his disdain for the song To Be In Your Eyes. “It would be heresy not to perform it now,” he admitted, as it’s part of the album they’ve committed to performing. As a treat, they threw in the b-side Life Speeds Up to round out the first set.

After a short intermission that almost put the crowd to sleep with repetitive, droning Gregorian Chant-like dirge, The Church returned sans paisley shirts to play some tunes from Further/Deeper that featured flourishing guitar lines and more intricate arrangements.

They also reached far into their back catalogue to pull out such gems as The Disillusionist from their Priest=Aura album. Kilbey was at his most animated on stage — unconstrained by his bass guitar — prancing about the stage and personifying the character in the song.

This was also my first time seeing The Church without longtime guitarist/singer Marty Willson-Piper. Doing an admirable job replacing him in the band since Further/Deeper is Ian Haug, formerly of Aussie band Powderfinger. Despite suffering from jetlag from their flight from Australia that had them arriving mere hours before sound check, the cult band ran just fine on adrenaline for over two-and-a-half hours, including encore. They topped off the night with a rousing rendition of one of my favourite songs, Reptile, from their 1988 Starfish album, which initiated my love for the band.

Thanks to Embrace Presents for media access.

About author

Roger Cullman is an award-winning photojournalist. His work has appeared in NOW Magazine, blogTO, Sports Illustrated and The Globe & Mail. Find and follow him on Twitter and Instagram @rogercullman and check out his website: rogercullman.com.