Live Review: Steve Kilbey digs deep into the back catalogue at Mojos, Fremantle

In town for the CinefestOz Film Festival, where a documentary about him is being screened, Steve Kilbey, of The Church fame, dropped into Fremantle for a one off ‘solo’ gig at Mojos on Thursday Night. Joining Kilbey on stage was a trio of local musicians – Shaun Coulson, on guitar and mandolin, Shaun Hoffman on drums, and the mononymous ‘Hannah’ on keyboards and guitar.

Although billed as an evening of songs and stories, it was songs that mostly prevailed, with the crowd treated to a selection of songs that dug deep into Kilbey’s extensive songbook – with some lesser known tracks by The Church getting a good airing alongside some of Kilbey’s solo material, and his collaborations with others. The evening, for example, kicked off with ‘Providence’, the song Kilbey recorded with The Go Betweens’ Grant McLeannan and released on the first album of their Jack Frost side project. Also getting a play was, ‘September 13’, the song Kilbey wrote with Stephen Cummings, from Melbourne’s The Sports, in the early 90’s.

Fans expecting wall to wall Church hits then might have been left disappointed, with only the hit singles “Almost With You” from 1982’s The Blurred Crusade and “Under The Milky Way” from Starfish getting a play, with Kilbey wryly describing the latter as “the song I’m sick of talking about”. Instead the evening seemed to be a chance for Kilbey to play some ‘Deep Cuts’ with tracks from Heyday (“Tristesse”), Priest=Aura (“Mistress”) and Remote Luxury (“Constant in Opal”) all getting a play. There was even a new song dropped into the set.

Whilst it was an evening of songs, more than the promised stories, Kilbey did regale the audience with a few short anecdotes, and plenty of asides (most at the expense of some Coalition and One Nation politicians). Whether it be discussing Bob Dylan “the ladies in the audience might not realise how hard it is to get a moustache that thin”, or his first meeting with Stephen Cummings, “I was drinking custard and reading the Bhagavad Gita, or as Stephen called it my Hindu literature”, Kilbey showed himself to be a witty and wry performer, who is more than happy to poke fun at himself when required. Whilst Kilbey has been described as difficult, to me he seemed funny, just very dry in his humour, and with a habit of putting his foot in it. Though word of warning, don’t chat through his gigs, or else you’ll find yourself on the end of a (tongue in cheek) dressing down.

It was an entertaining performance, however, it wasn’t without the odd misstep, the most glaring being a ramshackle cover of Van Morrison’s “Gloria” to close out the show, given the songs he didn’t play it seemed an odd choice, especially with Kilbey making up verses on the spot. But aside from that it was an enjoyable evening, and a wonderful opportunity to see one of Australia’s finest songwriters at work in an intimate setting.

The reviewer attended this show on August 24th.


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Simon Clark

Books Editor. An admirer of songs and reader of books. Simon has a PhD in English and Comparative Literature. All errant apostrophes are his own.