When all of your favorite Nineties bands realized that they could get back together and play live in front of people, I’m sure there were a few groans. Everyone has their preferences, and let’s leave it at that. I thought that Slowdive and Suede did it right, and I thought that the Verve and the Stone Roses let a lot of people down for various reasons, either by breaking up again too soon or by not putting out anything worth listening to.

There are only a handful of artistically successful “reunions” as far as I am concerned, and Ride has been the most artistically satisfying and accomplished that I have seen so far. This is their second proper full length “reunion” album and this stop on the tour to promote This is Not a Safe Place was an ear-ringing infusion of incredible style and accomplishment.

Nobody had more fun the night that I saw Ride than the band itself. They were in extremely good form and there were no false starts, no missteps, just a relentless assault on the senses and a pursuit of perfection that must have made rehearsals go on forever.

They played the old songs and the new songs equally as well, and this is what was so great about the show—nothing was out of place. No filler, no clunkers, just a desire at the end to hear a few more songs. There were whole albums worth of material that didn’t even get a hearing, so that’s where the show went. I was hoping to hear Pulsar, from the EP that they put out between comeback albums, but oh well. For a good fifteen years, the very idea of new music from Ride was an impossibility, so I’m happy to have heard what they played.

And really, what was impressive is that they made it all so immediate and relevant. Even in the ultra-modern, eclectic confines of the 9:30 club, the songs made a room for themselves and held up. There is still a place out there for guitar music, played loud, and in a genre that doesn’t mock itself and devolve into power chords and Chuck Berry riffs. It was soulful and drove home the need to give live music a place to be heard.

The Church Live at the Heights Theater


The Church have been on tour again here in the states and they are not to be missed. I cannot emphasize this enough—if they are even remotely close to where you live in the weeks ahead, go see them because this is a band that cannot be equaled in a live setting.

To see them in the relatively small space of the Heights Theater in Houston was one thing. To experience their current live show is another miracle in and of itself. When The Church come to the states for a show, they are as stripped down as possible—there are no extras, no guitars left unplayed, nothing left to the imagination. They present themselves so well you can’t believe they’re not playing arenas.

In the front row, your could see parents with young children, and all I can say is, in twenty years, you won’t see anyone like The Church playing live in that format. Guitar music is fading away, and the level of musicianship is without equal. This is a one-time deal. There is no one playing this way, and no one capable of ever recreating this level of professional achievement. No one else has a catalog like they do as well. And, at no time have they ever really peaked. There are tremendous songs and albums in every decade of their existence.

I would have been happy with all newer songs, but it was great to hear them roar through Starfish in its entirety. The Church are not a nostalgia act. Every song is reworked, reimagined, and experienced anew, and all of the parts are shuffled around. Having heard them live ten years ago, they sound the same but different in all the good ways.

This is still a band that can amaze. Adding Ian Haug to the mix changed the atmosphere but not the spirit of the songs. In a live setting, you are still getting Steve Kilbey and Peter Koppes’ versions of the parts and their overall vision of the band. But, really, you need to see Tim Powles on the drums to really appreciate what the band has evolved into. At one point, he is banging away, one handed, and shaking a tambourine in the other. Another moment, and he’s smashing the drums with the tambourine, nothing ever out of place.

If I could change one thing, I would ask them to add Jeffrey Cain as a full member of the band and make it a five piece. Really, he’s more than a utility infielder. His ability to balance guitar, keyboards and vocals makes the whole show complete. He took Marty’s riff on North, South, East & West and ran with it.

This show was worth the drive there and back again. It was the highlight of the year for me in terms of music.

The stage at the Heights Theater, just before the band came out to play

The stage at the Heights Theater, just before the band came out to play

The full band, from L-R: Peter Koppes, Jeffrey Cain, Tim Powles, Steve Kilbey, Ian Haug

The full band, from L-R: Peter Koppes, Jeffrey Cain, Tim Powles, Steve Kilbey, Ian Haug

Steve Kilbey

Steve Kilbey

I don’t take a lot of photos at shows. These were taken during pauses or moments when it was possible to be unobtrusive about it. I definitely do not use a flash and I did not record anything being played.