There aren’t a lot of artists I’ve seen in concert twice. I saw Lynyrd Skynyrd on purpose once in 1998, and by happenstance in 2007 for about three songs (okay, it was for work, it was getting late and I had a two hour drive home on back roads, and I saw the show already with more original members a decade before). I’ve seen Brian Wilson once and will see him again in about a month. One group I have seen twice is Australian legends The Church, best known for their one shimmering hit, “Under The Milky Way.”
The Church made a rare Northern New England appearance on their 2009 tour, supporting their then-current album, “Untitled #23.” The show was on a Fourth of July weekend at Tupelo Music Hall, an intimate venue in Londonderry, New Hampshire with no air conditioning. It also happened to be about 90 degrees earlier that day, but I’d like to think the sticky weather just added to the whole ambience of the evening. I really thought “Untitled #23” was their best work since the 1980s (and I still believe that.) Much to my delight, they played about four or five tracks off the new album, including the last song on the album, “Operetta.” I heard this song for the first time in a while this morning, and it reminded me of a feeling I had when I was first really getting into the album: that if this were to be the final album by The Church, “Operetta” would have made a fine career-closer. The song feels like a hazy summer sunset; it has that perfect balance of melancholy and hope that you like out of a final track to an album, in the same way that Roxy Music’s “True to Life/Tara” helps their final studio album “Avalon” sail off into the mist. There’s a sense of finality there, but they leave you wanting just a little more.
As it turns out, The Church would continue to tour here and there, but then founding guitarist Marty Willson-Piper would basically abandon the band. No worries, they recruited a new guitarist in Ian Haug, and Steve Kilbey, Peter Koppes and Tim Powles continue on as The Church to this day. Their most recent album, “Further/Deeper,” reeled me in without much effort, and is certainly a release that does The Church name justice. I saw The Church again last summer at Portland’s Asylum. While I’d still give the 2009 show the edge in terms of personal impact, their vitality as a live act remained strong in 2015.