Meltdown Festival: The Psychedelic Furs and The Church at the Royal Festival Hall
The 25th Meltdown Festival is curated by none other than Robert Smith of The Cure. The event exhibits music, art, performance and film at Southbank Centre in June, selected exclusively by the established musician.
Australian psychedelic group The Church have been around since the 1980s, forging a name for themselves as one of Sydney’s best alternative underground bands, with 25 albums in their catalogue to date.
Frontman and bassist Steve Kilbey is no stranger to the stage, as he flamboyantly walks across it and plays with an eccentricity that is not often seen in live performances. The first song of the evening, Block, is a dark grunge number, contrasting with their signature shimmering guitars, while Myrrh from Heyday – one of their most popular records – is jaunty, Kilbey’s vocals mirroring those of another 80s icon, Lloyd Cole, unchanged after all these years. Another Century from latest album Man Woman Life Death Infinity invokes auditory memories of David Bowie and the Beatles, while the iridescent Reptile sounds as timeless and gleaming as any of The Church’s material. Pointing to the vacant seats in front of him, the frontman exclaims, “Where are all the absentees, decided they didn’t wanna check us out?”, before perfectly sliding into the classic Under the Milky Way, a wonderful highlight to see live. Finishing off with a rendition of Miami, the group certainly appease fans, though it is a surprising and brief set. While Kilbey performs with flamenco-like moves, something strange starts to happen: the stage organisers disassemble the drums, while the band is still performing. As the drum kit gradually disappears, the drummer is left with only a tambourine, then the final strums of the acoustic guitar – the lasting impression is bizarre, perhaps an ironic meltdown of sorts?
The Psychedelic Furs play an energetic and excellent set too, and it seems like no time has passed. Their music is a blend of punk and new wave, and fans rejoice at seeing these legendary rockers live and as fervent as ever. Forming in 1977, the Furs’ music has been used in several films including John Hughes’s Pretty in Pink and most recently Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name. Frontman Richard Butler puts on a spirited performance, with older tracks such as Dumb Waiters, (Talk Talk Talk, 1980) and President Gas seeing concertgoers leaping towards the stage – a familiar scene at Meltdown. The gentle romantic ballad Ghost in You is a sweetly nostalgic trip down memory lane, reflecting the lyrics, as time moves on but the six-piece still remains. Playing the darkly addictive Sister Europe, the ensemble prove continually that they still possess the qualities that make them worth seeing live; in some ways they are the epitome of the punk rock band, with enough passion and rock star attitude to turn the Royal Festival Hall into a melting pot. Love My Way is irresistible, the keyboard notes melodiously undulating across the room, Butler’s rough-edged lyrics distinct. India’s rocking introduction grounds the band as one of the coolest of the 80s, while Pretty in Pink completes the encore, the stage lit up in cerise, while the saxophone plays out.
Butler is elated to be here, shaking fans’ hands – always a nice gesture – and it is with saxophonist Mars Williams that both the hits and rarely played tracks are brought to life. Both The Psychedelic Furs and The Church are on top form, giving us a very special and memorable performance spanning decades.
Photo: Vic Frankowski
For further information and future events visit The Psychedelic Furs’ website here.
For further information and future events visit The Church’s website here.
Watch the video for Love My Way here: