by Larry Kaiser
February 1988: The Church release their fifth studio album, Starfish, which was their breakthrough album in the United States, certified with gold status. Fast forward to 2018/2019, and the band is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the record where they are treating fans to the album in its entirety and then an assortment of tracks from their repertoire of 25 studio albums. The run of dates across North America is the sixth consecutive year that the band has come to the United States. Now on the Spring leg of the tour, the band played The Social in Orlando on April 23rd.
With a sound that ranges from psychedelic to new-wave and many other genres in between, Starfish allowed the band to reach new heights of stardom in the late 80s. From the opening notes of ‘Destination’ to the closing notes of ‘Hotel Womb’, the band gave the crowd a spectacular track-by-track history lesson of the album. After the first few tracks, lead singer Steve Kilbey said that he “never thought it would be 2019 and he would be playing a gig in Orlando, Florida, looking at a screen with a picture of me on it… with a botched attempt at eye-brow coloring.” The lighting in the room was a dark blue hue, and the band lived up to their psychedelic roots with heavy use of strobe lighting. For a fan of The Church, Starfish in its entirety is one of the best albums on the 80s. All of the songs have aged very well with crowd favorites ‘Under the Milky Way,’ ‘Reptile,’ and ‘Lost’ getting loud cheers.
Kilbey continued his commentary during the opening set, mentioning that 31 years ago when you listened to Starfish, you had to turn the “fucking record over to hear this next tune,” as they played ‘Spark’. Before closing the first set with ‘Hotel Womb,’ Kilbey shared with the crowd how they paid a lot of money for an intermissionalist and that this would be the greatest intermission that we have ever witnessed. Side note – there was no intermissionalist, just a crowd anxious to see what the band had up their sleeve for the second set.
The band opened its second set with ‘Anaesthesia’ from the 1998 release Hologram of Baal, which marked founding guitarist Peter Koppes return to the band after a short hiatus. Highlights of the set included ‘Metropolis’ from Gold Afternoon Fix; ‘Sealine’ from Forget Yourself; and ‘Ripple’ from Priest=Aura. At this point, Kilbey shared with the crowd how, when we was younger, he wanted to be an announcer for the circus. This led to the introduction of the band on stage, including touring musician Jeffery Cain from Alabama, who received a loud welcome.
With band introductions complete, Kilby proclaimed that the next song was “tested by the FDA and certified 100% rock and roll.” With that comment, the band tore into ‘Constant in Opal’ from the band’s Remote Luxury album. Both the crowd and band enjoyed this treat.
After closing the second set with ‘Tantalized’ from Heyday, the band left the stage leaving the crowd anticipating an encore. With the room keeping the blue hue of the evening, and the band returning to the stage, they were greeted with thunderous applause. Kilbey thanked the crowd for being a fantastic audience for the night and shared that when they started playing music together in 1980, they were ‘a scruffy band playing to five people and then this song was in a movie. A week later we were playing to 900 people.’ A fine introduction to the band’s first hit single from their debut album, Of Skins and Heart from 1981, ‘Unguarded Moment.’
Kilbey’s final remarks for the night had him referencing the closing song as “really being about Florida,” before the opening cords of ‘Miami’ from 2014’s Further/Deeper, their first album with former Powderfinger guitarist Ian Haug.
Fans definitely got their money’s worth that night; Starfish in its entirety, a career spanning second set, and an encore that capped the evening. With their 40th anniversary as a band coming up in 2020, the band continues to deliver quality music and live shows. With no signs of slowing down, fans can expect new albums and future tours. Viva La Church!