The Church shows some spit and vinegar as it revisits ‘Starfish’

by MIKE CHAIKEN

EDITIONS EDITOR

If you cue up The Church’s seminal album, “Starfish,” the sound is languid and dreamy.

It’s a gentle river current that takes your consciousness downstream (to borrow a metaphor from the Summer of Love.)

Although The Church, circa 1988, were still young bucks blazing their own rock and roll sound—there was a maturity to their sound.

The members of The Church, led by bassist Steve Kilbey and guitarist Peter Koppes, are grayer now than they were when they leapt into the public’s consciousness with “Under the Milky Way.” Their looks have morphed into the demeanor they proffered three decades ago.

Interestingly enough at the Oct. 20 show at the Mohegan Sun’s Wolf Den, The Church’s appearance was more mature. Rather than a shag haircut and clean-shaven face, Kilbey has a beard and slicked his pepper and salt hair back. Koppes’ curls are firmly entrenched in gray. But, their playing– especially as they recounted “Starfish” from beginning to end– proved that artistically they have been sipping the fountain of youth.

The music of The Church may sound mystical. But in a live setting, the band proved they are no laidback hippies slipping through a psychedelic stream. The songs punched rather than floated. The attitude was more spit and vinegar than patchouli than incense.

The Church reminded the audience that alternative rock sprung from the sprigs of punk rock rather than the remnants of soft rock.

Sometimes when bands revisit the music of their youth, the result is more sleepwalk than onslaught. It is more reverent than revelatory. It feels like the stereotypical contractual obligation.

But The Church’s approach to “Starfish” made the album seem fresh. The live setting made songs such as “Reptile,” “Destination,” and the aforementioned “Under the Milky Way” breathe and come alive. The band was tight and energetic.

More importantly for the band, the live presentation of an album 30 years old caused me to listen to “Starfish” once again- this time with renewed interest and renewed appreciation.

The Church also benefited from an audience who made a point of making the effort to come out to the show. These clearly weren’t gamblers taking a respite from the clanging slots. The fans were passionate about The Church’s music and their energy clearly energized the band.

After the Oct. 20 show at the Wolf Den, I became another acolyte of The Church.

I give The Church 3 1/2 out of 4 stars.