The Church Performance at Park West, Chicago 2011

Posted February 15, 2011

The Church 2011

I was at the Chicago show at the Park West and have seen the last five tours through the U.S. Here are some observations from this show:

Park West looked like it was sold out and packed. I wish they had standing room near the front. Sitting down at tables can neutralize the energy a little bit. But people gave standing ovations over and over again. There was much applause and yells after most of the songs.

The performances were much tighter than I've seen in the past. Tim Powles was likely playing to a click so the tempos seemed perfect for every song. Sometimes I find his live drumming a little loose - tonight he was controlled, tight and generating a lot of energy. He even added some punctuation here and there that was surprisingly tasteful and elevated the performance.

Marty was incredible. He always seems to bring the energy and people generally go wild for his solos. No exception tonight. He seemed much more focused tonight and where in the past it might take him time to transition from one song to another, he was into the next thing and ready to go and on fire.

Much less banter between the band. Their previous tours have seen them loosening up and having fun, telling stories, even being a bit comedic. Probably because of the amount of material, there was very little stage banter. They moved from one song to the next. I think this helped keep the mood of each album though I did wish for a little humor. Still it was a tradeoff that likely had to be made.

The overall execution for each song was better than I could have expected. All of it really. Summing up - the mood, tempo, playing and singing added up.

Anchorage: Amazing performance. I love this song. Steve left the bass to Craig (did I get that right?) and they added a second bass with one of the techies. Steve poured his heart out for this one, gesturing with each line. Simply awesome.

Priest = Aura (the song): Loved the whole album, but this song in particular blew me away. It was like watching contained energy as the intensity level kept rising.

The Disillusionist: Another one of my favorites, Steve sang without playing, focusing on each line, moving about the stage and putting himself into the story. I'm not sure this could have been performed any better than it was. Simply stellar. I could tell from the audience that this was a favorite with others as well.

They played over three hours. How do you sing that much material and keep your voice for the next show? How do you maintain the energy? At times it did seem that Steve might have been saving his voice and dialing it back a little. On others, he was belting it out.

I don't know how to say this without sounding like I'm taking something away from the performance. From Steve's blogs, it's sounded like he has been going through a rough time to say the least. In some ways you could see that on him in the performance. Sometimes it seemed like he was exorcising his demons through the songs - fully there. Other times, it was as if he had to put the cork back in the bottle.

For me, seeing the Church live always taps into and releases some existential angst. It moves energy. It feels cathartic. I feel like I've gone to see a shaman. The same thing happened at this show. I found myself transported. And, I thought the Church transcended. This was a notch above. People I talked to at the show felt the same way. Many had seen a dozen or more shows and commented on how they had witnessed something amazing. I thought about skipping this tour due to money issues but am so glad I went.

Brian McWilliams

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