Chvrches at House of Blues, 11/24/13
Photos by Julian Bajsel
Chvrches, Basecamp House of Blues November 24, 2k13
Chvrches are a group that play with your expectations. It starts with the name; the moment you the swapped "v" instead of a "u" you assume they'll either be a Norwegian death-metal band or a witch-house DJ. Then you press the play button and you're confronted with a very catchy synth-pop band.
You listen to their debut album, The Bones of What You Believe, and you expect the band to be kind of dour, given that there isn't much in the way of positivity on the record. Then you go and see them live and discover that they're very funny, charming people.
You go to a concert to experience the catharsis that comes from live music, and you get that, but not in the way you would from a typical live show.
Whether this is purposeful or accidental is hard to say, but it certainly makes Chvrches one of the most interesting up and coming acts around today.
Lauren Mayberry is a singer, and although she does the bulk of the lead singing and crowd interaction, it seems weird to give her the title of front woman. She's not a domineering presence, stalking across the stage commanding attention; she's an equal third of the group, and what she may lack in stage presence she more than makes up for by delivering note-for-note recreations of her vocals from the album. She's the rock that makes centers the entire ship and makes everything else onstage possible.
Synth/sample-player Martin Doherty is the heart of the group. His vocals are not note for note, but every time he opens his mouth it's easy to believe that he means everything he sings. The emotional highpoint, vocally at least, was when he got his turn to take lead vocals on "Under the Tide" and managed to move across the stage more in one song than Mayberry did the rest of the show. It's the kind of pure display of emotion that you can't help but smile at, proof that just because you're not hitting the right notes doesn't mean you're hitting the wrong ones.
Most of the emotion of the night was pulled from the music side of things: the synths going nuts at the end of "Tether," the chopped vocal samples of "The Mother We Share", and the moment that the show-closing "By the Throat" explodes back to full force. They're a young band with a small catalog, but they do a good job of building the set to save their strongest, most dynamic material for the end of the show.
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It's easy to see why people packed House of Blues and why folks have fallen in love with Chvrches sound. True, it's not big on histrionics, but there's an energy there that is compelling, even if it's in ways most don't normally digest music. As long as you don't go in expecting some big, vocal emotional revelation, a moment where they push a song to a new level, you'll walk away satisfied.
Chvrches are exactly who they want to be live, whether you expect it or not.
Personal Bias: I've been waiting to see Chvrches live since the moment I heard "The Mother We Share" a year ago.
So, How Was the Opener: Let's pretend you have a friend who is in a band. Your friend is talented, and the band is pretty good. Then you go to see them play a show and while it's not bad, it's not great either. Later, your friend asks you how the show was and you tell him or her that it was good, because that's not a lie, it's just a half-truth. You also make sure to mention that you liked when they covered Ace of Base. That's what seeing Basecamp is like.
The Crowd: For once people were wearing scarves because of the weather and not because they're fashionable.
Overheard In the Crowd: "Ohhhhhhhhhhh!" For some reason House of Blues was showing the Patriots/Broncos game in between acts, and people were really into the Patriots' comeback.
Random Notebook Dump: While most people pull out their phones to send texts and check Twitter between acts, I look up the results to Survivor Series.
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