I had a great time seeing music Wednesday night April 20th at the Tupelo Music Hall in Londonderry, NH. I’m on their mailing list, and a few weeks back got an e-mail saying they had added some cool new shows. I checked it out and saw that the Church were coming. I ran to the calendar and saw that it was on a Wednesday, which is the first day of my weekend. I bought a ticket immediately and booked a hotel room shortly thereafter.
Wednesday was a lovely day and I got out the door around 1:30. Traffic was pretty reasonable for the drive down 89 and I made pretty good time. Traffic picked up a bit around Concord but I just took it easy as I drove down 93 until I found exit 2, then my hotel. I got in and settled and headed out soon after. I took the short drive up 93 to exit 4 and followed the great directions provided by the venue.
The Tupelo Music Hall has a nice sign out front but the building itself looks like a large old house. They do not sell alcohol but you can bring your own for a $3 charge to the house. Also, on the front of the building there is a set of stairs that lead down to a beer and wine shop in the cellar. I wandered in, bought a couple of porters and walked up the stairs in the back of the shop, that lead into the venue. When you walk in there is a room with a check in desk and the merch table. To the right is a series of rooms with chairs and tables and to the left was The Purple Puffin cafe. I grabbed some food, found a table and watched the place slowly fill as I ate. When done, I went back towards the Puffin and through the door into the concert room.
The venue is a bit smaller than the ballroom at Higher Ground and had chairs on the floor, three tables in back and a line of seats behind them, almost at the back wall. I chatted with a couple of cool people then took my second row seat, on the left, right in front of Peter Koppes. I enjoyed listening to the ethereal music played through the PA until the band walked down the right side of the venue into the tiny “backstage” area beside the stage.
The full house was excited as the band walked onto the stage. Steve Kilbey chatted for a bit about how the album The Blurred Crusade came out in Australia in 1982 but was not released in America until after Under The Milky Way hit big in the late 80’s. He announced that the band would play the full album, and we were off. They played as a five-piece with Kilbey on bass and vocals. They had a utility guy, who’s name I missed, who sang backing vocals, played keys, played guitar and played bass on one song. Peter Koppes played lead and rhythm guitar, and sang backing vocals. Tim Powles played drums and sang some backing vocals and triggered a ton of sound effects. New guitar player Ian Haug played rhythm and lead, and sang some backing vocals too.
The Blurred Crusade begins with the super poppy Almost With You and it felt so great to be there with it playing live. The band were super tight and the sound was luscious. They continued through the albums strong yet poppy songs. When You Were Mine rocked nicely. Field Of Mars is a bit drifty and ultra cool. An Interlude starts slow but has a nice rock sound by the end. Secret Corners has a nice depth, Just For You and A Fire Burns have a great rock energy and are so easy to sing along with. Steve said something about if you hate sappy songs to leave before the next one and the band played a lovely version of To Be In Your Eyes. The album showcase, You Took, followed. The song starts slow with a bumping bass then explodes at the end. I though Ian might be the one to rip out the wicked lead break at the end of the song, but Peter was the one who pulled it off. They followed with a louder than usual version of the quite epilogue for the album, Don’t Look Back. Instead of ending there, they tossed in a blistering rock version of one of the B-sides from the era, Life Speeds Up. Wow, what a great set.
During the break I contemplated the full huge sound the band had going and the fact that Ian mostly played rhythm and Peter played most of the lead guitar. I had guessed the opposite.
After a short break, the band returned for set 2. They opened with the epic Block and I was ecstatic as the song built and built. Ian ripped out a killer solo, and spent most of the second set playing the lead. They followed with a song from the new album Further Deeper called Toy Head and it kept the music at a super energetic pace. Metropolis followed and it’s so easy to love that great pop song. They shifted the instrumentation a bit as Steve played an acoustic guitar for the shimmering Laurel Canyon. Steve sang the next two without guitar or bass and both the ferocious Sealine and the quirky Operetta sounded great. Steve picked up the bass again, and launched into his surging, almost Steve Harris level of rocking, blistering bass lines as the band pulled out my favorite song from the new album, Delirious. They capped the second set with the one two punch of Under The Milky Way and Reptile. The audience was totally blissed out. A short break followed but they returned to the stage and stayed with the Starfish album and pulled out a great version of Hotel Womb. They capped the night with another new song, Miami. Hearing the song on the album is cool, but live they gave it a much more epic huge sound and it filled my heart and soul.
After the set the house lights came on and people filed out. I went to my car and took the quick drive back to the hotel. I slept a few hours and woke up early and took the lovely drive home on Thursday. The drive was easy and sunny and lovely and was just wonderful until I got home and turned on the news to find out that Prince had passed away. It reinforced the idea that when great music happens you have to take advantage of it, because you never know how long it will last. With a bit of luck, The Church will continue on for a long time.