Having spent the morning in the Synagogue for Jewish New Year I snuck out to this old church for the evening which felt kind of odd as I can't remember the last time I spent hours in both a Synagogue and a church on the same day but it did feel fitting as both "services" had elements about repentance and celebration of survival in them. It was also John's second sold out London show to promote his excellent new album A Short History Of Decay.
Somehow on arriving I managed to snag a seat in the front pew so had a perfect view of everything that went on. First on was Nadine Khouri who was playing solo with a nice Gibson Guitar, from the opening Incantation and I have no idea what her songs are called she reminded me of Hannah Marcus and several of the other female artists that Pat Thomas signed in the 90's it was a cool song about a lover.
The next song was dedicated to a recently departed Mexican Singer whose name I didn't quite hear it was a nice heartfelt song that was followed by one about her watching the rain which she could have done earlier in the day.
What I think was Broken Star was for me the high spot in her set a wonderfully intricate tale of loss and I think betrayal at the end of an affair a subject that was also the main focus of the song about how she remembers the love that was next.
That was followed by what I have down as This Curious Landscape but is obviously something else and it had some real yearning and loss at its heart she then finished with a nice and slightly loose version of Leonard Cohen's Suzanne for Laughing Len's Birthday that went down well, this was a nice set but none of her songs really grabbed me.
After the break it was time for the evenings star preacher to step up to the pulpit and preach the word of Rev John Murry to the assembled congregation and after John had said how happy he was to be playing this wonderful old church they opened with Tracks Of My Tears that after a few lines of the song gave way to Johns own One Day and the emphasis on the fact that One Day he'll Die seemed more real when you are surrounded to headstones and tributes to the already departed, that and his band sounded in fine form.
Southern Sky was nicely restrained and as they did all night long John's musicians switched instruments as needed with both drummers also playing guitar, bass guitar and keyboards among other things. John then made his normal Faustian bargain as to if he will be getting paid in Silver Or Lead and that may have depended on the amount of profanity he was using in the pulpit while preaching his word.
Intruder may have been for the ghosts that seemed to be haunting this magnificent old church or just the ones chasing after John and his Lap Steel player who seemed to be making the scary horror movie noises needed to go with this song. But then they may have been having a go at the Wrong Man and John plays at being the wronged man almost perfectly in his deep mumble.
California keeps the downbeat feel and the jokes John tells between songs that are always delivered and received with a slight air of awkwardness that makes them more effective that and the fact this was the song that he played Mallets on banging them on his mic stand and then the drums. He then got Nadine Khouri up to join him on Come Five & Twenty to add a little extra guitar and some cool backing vocals.
Most of the band took Oscar Wilde off as John was accompanied by Piano only that worked really well to bring out the angst in the song and it seemed fitting in this context as well. As the rest of the band joined back in on Perfume & Decay it really seemed as if John also needed a choir but sadly that wasn't about to happen.
But still John seemed to really be enjoying being able to be profane in such an historic church and as he told us how Miss Magdalene should be sung in Church we all agreed and it was a great version of the song that seemed to be lifted by the fact that he was re-telling Mary's story on a site once visited by Joseph of Arimathea way back in the mists of time that only added to the sense of connection to the past inherent in the song.
They then played a nicely stripped back version of the Ballad Of The Pajama Kid that seemed full of rueful regret. Defacing Sunday Bulletins almost seemed sinful in this setting but was a lot less angry than the version they played at The Slaughtered Lamb a couple of months ago.
Countess Lola's Blues (All In This Together) really ought to be a hit by now and of course everyone sings along to it as if it is a new hymn for modern times and in many ways it really is such a great troubling and uplifting song. They closed with under A Darker Moon that just made me sit and look up at the sun in the moon that was above John at the front of the pulpit area of the church.
They got a huge ovation at the end and soon came back out for the encore that opened with Nadine Khouri joining them for a great version of the Afghan Whigs What Jail Is Like that had more intensity and pain in it than last time before they launched into the band's hit Little Coloured Balloons that really conjured the ghosts in the churchyard that for so many years was used by Junkies shooting up and every once in a while overdosing making this as much a song of John's own redemption as a song for all the junkies whoever shot up in the churchyard a great impassioned end to the set.
The band left again but the congregation were not letting them get away so easily and they were forced back for a second encore that opened with a song I have no idea what it was called but noted it was about falling at the Breech but no idea what it was really called they then finished things off with a great version of Townes Van Zant's Waiting Around to Die that was apparently a song written on Townes wedding night!! It's also a perfect song for John to sing and was a great way to close another great John Murry show he really does need to be seen live in an atmospheric venue.