Where do rockbands go when they grow old? The small room upstairs at the Paradiso.
It’s unfair perhaps and it must smart, but The Church soldiers on. All the good bands do. Whether you perform in front of thousands or in someone’s living room, you play as if it’s your last show.
I go see young bands, I go see the big names, I go to club gigs, I – reluctantly – enter stadiums to watch the megas. And I get jaded about concerts and complain I’m not getting what I need from them, most of the time.
Young bands especially, I find, have no stage craft and no mystique. (There’s always exceptions – Arcade Fire for example have plenty of both.) I want bands and their frontmen in particular to make me believe. Believe them. Believe something. I like to see bands play because they need to, not because they want to.
I go see bands full of expectations and come away disappointed a lot of the time. So when I went to see The Church I expected them well past their heyday, coasting on past glory. Instead I watched four guys soldiering on with more fire in the belly than a lot of the new ‘The’-bands put together. Overcoming ridiculous technical problems, they played blistering versions of songs from their vast repertoire.
Frontman Steve Kilbey, past the pretty but sporting a distinguished bearded look, still oozes star quality despite the weary, dog-tired I’m-too-old-for-this-game vibe that surrounds him. He commanded the room. How do I know this? He asked people to lay off the ciggies because they hurt his throat. Dutch people don’t like to be told ‘no’. But they obeyed. And when the pauses between songs became longer and longer while the drummer and techs tried to rid the stage of a persistent buzzing, nobody complained. Kilbey made up stories to pass time, people listened.
I left the Paradiso floating several feet above the ground and with a keen, renewed, interest in the band. I spent the weekend gorging information, properly obsessing and hungry for the chime of Peter Koppes and Marty Willson-Piper’s riffs.
Next time, give them back the big room, Paradiso.