Archive for January, 2007

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Kilbey was here. Or will be.

January 30, 2007

It seems The Church are touring Europe in April, and their last gig will be at Carling Academy Islington, which is just up the road from me. Should I go? I dunno. I’ve no idea how much the tickets will be. Still, I’m tempted. There was a time when Steve Kilbey jangled my world. I even loved his book, Earthed (a collection of tantalisingly awful prose poems released in 1988): the mark of a blinkered True Believer, to be sure.

Kilbey’s always had his flaws, but he’s a talented son of a bitch all the same. I saw him play a solo gig in 1994 (or thereabouts), in a tiny little arthouse cinema in Perth, and it was a revelation. Pretentious, charismatic and crotchety, Kilbey put on a hell of a show, delivering essentially a long, drawling complaint punctuated by brilliant songs and a spot of sulking. An example: his magnificently bitchy acoustic version of Reptile (“I see you slither away with your skin and your tail/Your flickering tongue and your rattling scales”) came with the introduction,”This song is about our former manager. Christ, you know, I still hate that fucking bastard.”

Towards the end of the evening, he responded to shouted requests from the audience for Under The Milky Way with exasperated eye-rolling… then held his guitar aloft and announced, “I’m not going to play that fucking song, but if anyone here can do a decent job of it, come up and give it a shot.” A young fellow from the back of the auditorium scrambled on stage and took the guitar while Kilbey reclined in an armchair, covered his face with a handkerchief and feigned a brief nap. It was one of the greatest moments I’ve ever had the privilege to witness. The kid sang as though his whole life had been leading up to that moment; as though his chest would burst with pride. Afterwards there was raucous applause, and even Kilbey smiled a little as he peeled the handkerchief from his face.

I’d lost touch with his music over the years, but stumbled across Kilbey’s blog last year when Grant McLennan died. I was reassured, in a way, to find him still as indulgently, adolescently, lowercase as ever. These days he sells his psychedelic paintings on the internet (many are self-portraits, perhaps unsurprisingly). I still have a fondness. Maybe I’ll go see him. Er, and the rest of the band. Apparently, at a Church gig last year Marty Wilson-Piper stormed off-stage mid-song, so there’s some drama in the old girl yet.