Having listened to The Church’s Steve Kilbey for 30 years, the prospect of seeing him live at one of Sydney’s renowned dinner/music restaurants was something not to be missed. Tucked away up a small flight of stairs, the venue is a music lover’s dream. Small and intimate, with lounges down back and candlelit tables up front, the room was filled with not only music memorabilia but also roughly 100 middle-aged rockers ready for a night of wining, dining and being entertained by 2010 Australian Aria Hall of Fame Inductee Kilbey, along with Ricky Maymi (Brian Jonestown Massacre) and the 2 Hoffs (Adrian and Shaun Hoffmann).
No typical Kilbey show, this one centered around Kilbey and Maymi’s collaboration to “finish off” the musical works of the late David Neil, resulting in “The Wilderness Years” album. But who is this mysterious David Neil? From Kilbey’s visionary mind we are told of a rock star from days gone by who – in true rockstar style – managed a triple death (the plane he was on crashed, while he was overdosing in the toilet, while a jealous husband kicked in the door and gunned him down). As a result of his untimely demise many of Neil’s songs were “lost and unheard” until a certain bass player (Kilbey) discovered and reworked them, mixing old and new while still maintaining the “David Neil” sound. Tonight would see that music come to the stage as only (the presumably fictitious) Neil would have wanted.
Steve and the band sauntered onto stage, and proceeded to carry us away over the course of the night.
The set got underway with a couple of tracks off “The Wilderness Years” the sound of which is quite unique – almost classic rock with some psychedelia thrown in – created by the combination of Steve’s 12 string, Ricky’s reverb slide guitar playing, and some pretty decent bass and thumping drums. Early in the set, the inclusion of an all out assault version of The Church’s “Comedown” certainly pumped up the audience.
The songs off the album including “Hollywood Ending” and “Walk with Me” held up very well live; easy on the ears with high-energy injections courtesy of Maymi. The band were nearly faultless, a tight unit with Kilbey’s distinctive vocals nailing his connection with audience. Energizing a room like this is tough with the audience sitting at dinner tables and not standing as you would a regular gig, but the banter between Kilbey, Maymi and the audience served to create an almost “private party” feel.
We were promised a few “treats” and that promise was not broken. As one man, one guitar and one voice in a silenced room sang the classic “Almost With You” to an appreciative gathering, the hairs on my arm literally stood on end. One word: magical.
Of course the audience wanted more, and more arrived, in the form of a grand finale which would last over 17 min. Starting up with “Electric Lash” from The Church’s 1983 Séance album, and segueing into a high voltage, psychedelic version of Van Morrisson’s “Gloria”. With energy right to the end, Kilbey, Maymi and the 2 Hoffs certainly delivered one heck of an evening.
Afterwards, Kilbey and Maymi again seized on one of the small venue advantages, emerging from backstage and happily obliging fans with autographs, personal photos and general chit-chat, making the evening more memorable for those lucky enough to be present. But even without the personal experience it was again, a show not to be missed.