For casual listeners, The Church began in 1988, with the release of their album, Starfish, and its inescapable single, "Under the Milky Way," and ended soon after.
But the Australian quartet, composed of original members Steve Kilbey, Martin Willson-Piper, Peter Koppes and longtime drummer Tim Powles, are in it for the long haul, as Tuesday's Trocadero show demonstrated in spades.
As if their 30 years as a band weren't proof enough of their stamina, the Church decided to mark the milestone by playing three of their albums live. That's right: three of them. Let lesser bands pluck a single pearl from their back catalogue. The Church will give you the whole thing.
Well, not all of it. The band's most recent album, Untitled #23, is so named for its rank among their releases (including singles and EPs). But even so, playing that album along with Starfish and 1992's Priest = Aura took up the better part of four hours, including two intermissions.
That's more time that even a devoted fan might want to spend with a band they love, so perhaps it's not too faint a tribute to say that at the end of the night, the audience ignored Kilbey's heads-up that there would be no encore and clapped (unsuccessfully) for more.
Working in reverse chronological order turned out to be a wise move, and not just because it left the band's most popular album for last. As they moved backwards in time, the songs grew more lighter and more concise, less brooding and more energetic. The longer, more tempestuous Priest made an ideal centerpiece, building up to the long-form sturm und drang of its penultimate track, "Chaos."
Instrumentation shifted throughout the night, providing insight into each album's distinctive sound.
For Untitled #23, Kilbey and Willson-Piper traded bass and guitar duties with almost every song, inviting their roadie and a supporting vocalist on stage to augment the urgent sway of "Anchorage."
For Priest, Kilbey switched to a six-string that allowed him to play bass and low-register guitar chords at the same time.
For Starfish, Willson-Piper relied on a duct-taped acoustic 12-string to provide the lush atmosphere of "Under the Milky Way," switching back to electric for the terse, echoing riff of "Reptile."
Each album stood on its own, a miniature world that performers and audience could inhabit for a while before moving on to the next.