With Marty Willson-Piper's disappearance into the ether and the final departure of Peter Koppes, Steve Kilbey effectively is The Church, gradually having surrounded himself by a supporting cast of more than capable players.The rejuvenation of the band seems finally complete with long-term drummer and co-pilot Tim Powles, the addition of Powderfinger's Ian Haug, and latterly Remy Zero's Jeffrey Cain and guitar everyman Ashley Naylor (whose varied band credentials are too varied to go through here).
Nicholas Meredith, having subbed for an absent Tim Powles in America recently, is now in the fold as an additional onstage drummer lending a fuller sound that is immediately apparent as the band commence the first of two sets over a three-hour span with 'Ascendence', the opening song from latest concept album 'The Hypnogogue', an appropriate representation of where the band is now, looking forward while embracing past influences, stylistically not dissimilar from 'Priest=Aura'.
Having previewed 'The Hypnogogue' on their previous tour, songs from that album comprise over a third of the set. At first it comes to mind that it's disappointing the band feel they have to insert these new songs amongst those from the back catalogue, instead of performing the album as a whole even though the opening and closing songs, 'Ascendence' and 'Second Bridge', bookend the set prior to an encore.
Maybe this is what he meant when Steve announced early on: "We're here to play all the songs you want to hear and all the songs you don't."
As the set went on, with the overarching story of 'The Hypnogogue' woven amongst the more well-known songs, there was a sense of familiarity in the newer songs such that sometimes they were only distinguishable by Steve's descriptive, contextual introductions to the concept as a whole.
The airing of 'I Think I Knew' was most definitely welcome as was 'No Other You', which embodied David Bowie's patronage of Mott the Hoople with a hint of Led Zeppelin's 'Kashmir' thrown in for measure and included a Tommy Iommi flourish in Ash's soloing.
The more well-known songs from the back catalogue are given a new lease of life with Ash's playing on 'Destination' sounding hauntingly sinister.
While the performance of The Church's "last ever hit single" (according to Steve) 'Metropolis' was like a different band covering the song, which is not entirely inaccurate given the current make up of the group.
Steve recites a drawn-out, near-death experience story to introduce the obligatory 'The Unguarded Moment' including a static radio recording leading into the song itself, bringing to mind the beginning of Pink Floyd's 'Wish You Were Here'. Afterwards he jokingly asks: "Are you happy now?"
Later there is the other obligatory inclusion in the set, 'Under The Milky Way', during which the on record, almost trademark in-joke 'bagpipe' soloing is transposed expertly to electric guitar by Ash, and Steve again addresses his mortality, commenting: "The day after I die that will become the national anthem and my grandchildren will be rich."
The looping intimacy of 'Hotel Womb' is magnified as the song is turned inside out in the live context.
Latterly, during the encore, the distinct and recognisable plucked riff of 'Reptile' is fragmented as the song is elongated until it becomes something else entirely.
The final song of the evening is the seemingly endless 'You Took' during which Steve sits down to rest on the drum riser during the proceedings.
Although they have never really been away, The Church have had a late career resurgence in recent years, and have been touring quite regularly with a shifting line-up that now appears complete.
What is less apparent to the casual observer that may have written off the band as seemingly long passed their higher profile, commercial peak of late '80s and early '90s, is that with 'The Hypnogogue' they are finally, truly producing the psychedelic music promised by the early attire of their paisley shirts.
Read our recent interview with Steve.