I attended a festival of middle age last night. The queue stretched along the street and around the corner and up the block in the middle of Chinatown in Melbourne’s CBD. The people queuing were almost entirely my tribe: middle class, middle aged, of European descent, dressed in denim and leather, with colourful paisley and floral shirts, and a few quirky scarves and hats.

We were a curiosity to the young Asian people wandering the streets in search of dinner. What are you queuing for? The Church, someone explained. Church? All you old people are going to church on a Friday night? No, The Church. Blank faces. It’s a band. Oh. Never heard of them.

church-2015 the festival of middle age

Playing at a packed 170 Russell St (formerly Billboard) The Church started by doing their second album The Blurred Crusade in full, with b sides, then went off. The second set was some of their new album Further/Deeper, which I haven’t heard, and it was a bit samey-samey apart from Miami and Laurel Canyon, which I liked. We got a fast and quite unmelodic Under the Milky Way and a few others, with the highlight being a great Metropolis.

The following long encore was anti-climactic, with slow songs before ending with a rousing Reptile, albeit marred, as were too many of the songs, by a wall of noise jam to crescendo. I wasn’t only one yawning and stretching and wondering when it would end.

Steve Kilbey sang without playing bass on several songs, more than I’ve seen before. He also spoke very little, apart from introducing songs and saying thanks, and he did more hippy dancing. It was hard to tell what kind of mood he was in without the usual banter.

There was less instrument swapping than previously too. The departure of Marty Willson-Piper has changed the dynamic of the band. Overall they’ve still got it, playing a strong 3 hour gig, even if they were being a bit indulgent with the jamming.

It was possibly the best behaved gig crowd I’ve ever been in. Many people were sensibly drinking from hip flasks so they didn’t waste time and money at the bar. There was no pushing and personal space was respected. Pleasant crowd dynamics and rock and roll? It doesn’t seem right, but overall it was.

Naturally the evening concluded with a kebab…

the festival of middle age

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