REVIEW WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
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Although both bands formed at about the same time, there was quite a contrast between The Church and The Psychedelic Furs, who both performed Aug. 15 at a sweltering hot Keswick Theatre.
The Church had a detached, Mr. Cool stage presence that suited their mysterious music. That is, except for their best known songs — 1988’s “Under the Milky Way” (referred to by singer/bassist Steve Kilbey simply as “that song”) and 1990’s “Metropolis” — when Kilbey actually seemed embarrassed by the mainstream exposure those songs gained for the band.
Straddling a delicate line between pleasing concert audiences, yet determined not to be stuck in the ‘80s, The Church’s set included “Block” from 2006’s “Uninvited, Like the Clouds,” an album that most critics appreciated, and that drummer Tim Powles went as far as calling a classic in a phone interview earlier this year; “Reptile” from the fan favorite album “Starfish;” the 1992 track “The Disillusionist,” made memorable by Kilbey putting his bass down and stalking the stage, delivering the clever, biting, trippy lyrics like a dramatic soliloquy; and the long “You Took” off one of their early albums.
The new album “Further/Deeper” was represented with the macabre “Toy Head” — which seemed like a strange choice until the band (particularly guitarist Peter Koppes) showed off their jamming prowess — and the epic closer “Miami,” which was more powerful in concert than the recording.
Their set ended in bizarre fashion, and made the stagehands an unlikely focal point. It was as if The Church had run way over their allotted set time as men stepped on stage and carried off the keyboard and Powles’ bass kick drum as the band played “Miami.” Other pieces of drum hardware followed. As the band bade their farewells from the stage, Kilbey, perhaps expressing displeasure with the intrusion of the stagehands, shouldered his bass like a soldier carrying a rifle and marched off stage.
While The Church were artistic yet mostly stand-offish, The Psychedelic Furs were engaging and energized, feeding off the unbridled adoration from the heat-fatigued audience. Distinct nasally raspy singer Richard Butler had the air of a lovable theater arts professor in his glasses and vest, striking poses, taking stage bows and touching hands and high-fiving fans in front of the stage. Butler’s brother, Tim, the group’s bassist, also effectively played to the crowd.
The Furs, who played a sold out show at the Ardmore Music Hall back in January, incredibly somehow managed to freshen up their set list despite very little new music since 1991’s “World Outside” album (The new song, “Little Miss World,” sounded quite good sandwiched between “Love My Way” and “Until She Comes”). Besides expected iconic ‘80s tunes like “Pretty in Pink,” “Heartbreak Beat,” “The Ghost in You” and “Heaven,” they mined their catalog for gems like “Heartbeat,” “High Wire Days,” “Sister Europe” and “Sleep Comes Down.”
Saxophonist Mars Williams was remarkable, and added new appreciation for the old songs when he occasionally swapped his tenor sax for a soprano sax to play solos not on the original recordings.
Both bands were good at keeping the music moving, with very little between-song chatter. However, it would’ve helped The Church’s cause to offer some context to the deep cuts.
If this concert had been a wine tasting, The Church would’ve been the dark, full-bodied cabernet sauvignon and the Furs either a riesling or an easy-drinking-but-satisfying fruit wine.