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- Posted on Apr 23rd 2010 11:30AM by Kenneth Partridge
Such is the concept behind 'An Intimate Space,' a month-long 30th anniversary acoustic tour that wraps in Atlanta on May 1.
"Thirty years," lead singer and bassist Steve Kilbey said at the top of the set. "How many minutes is that? How many miles?"
Despite its longevity and productivity, the Church is best known for the 1988 single 'Under the Milky Way,' its lone US hit. Since reaching No. 24 on the Billboard chart, the tune has lived a strange second life, finding its way onto both the big and small screen. In 1989, Kilbey told Thursday's capacity crowd, the song was used in an episode of 'Miami Vice,' scoring a scene featuring -- what else? -- cocaine dealers and prostitutes.
'Milky Way' also appeared in the 2001 cult film 'Donnie Darko,' which Kilbey remembers primarily for its creepy "giant rabbit" character, and a Lincoln car commercial.
"I'm thinking of a way to get the cocaine, the hookers, the luxury vehicle and the rabbit together," Kilbey said, joking that the band has managed to assemble three of the four -- it just can't seem to get its hands on a rabbit. He added, "Maybe I'm splitting hares."
It was a groaner of a line, but fans kept their jeering to a minimum. Clearly, the Church was among friends -- people who rightfully rate the group alongside Echo and the Bunnymen, Tears for Fears and other such purveyors of dark, emotive, quasi-psychedelic '80s pop.
It's a style the Church long ago mastered and has never quite abandoned. Thursday's opener, 'Pangaea,' from last year's excellent 'Untitled #23' album, shared much in common with tunes from the show's second half, which found Kilbey, guitarists Marty Wilson-Piper and Peter Koppes and drummer Tim Powles revisiting such '80s and '90s classics as 'Metropolis' and 'I'm Almost With You.'
There was consistency even in the mid- and late-'90s material, which was written during a difficult time for the Church. Following the release of 1992's 'Priest=Aura,' seen by many as the Church's finest full-length, Koppes quit the band, leaving Kilbey and Wilson-Piper to soldier on as a duo.
"We've come into some very dark days, indeed," Kilbey said, prefacing 'Louisiana,' an Americana-tinged tune from 1998's 'Hologram of Baal.' Introducing the next tune, 'Comedown,' from 1996's 'Magician Among the Spirits,' Kilbey grinned and did his best imitation of a 'Behind the Music' narrator: "Darker still ..."
Of late, the still-unfolding story of the Church has taken happier turns. The group is well past its commercial prime, but it's earned the respect of critics, in-the-know fans and, evidently, Billy Corgan. During Thursday's encore, Kilbey said he was thrilled to have seen a YouTube video of the Smashing Pumpkins covering one of the Church's songs. Repaying the compliment, the group took a break from revisiting its catalog and offered its take on the Pumpkins' smash 'Disarm.' Kilbey mimicked Corgan's pained delivery, adding grit to his molasses croon. The Church may have moved beyond its "dark days," but it's still at home in the shadows.