Monday, May 5, 2014

Concert Review: Chvrches, this time live

The light show that is a Chvrches live performance
Last Monday, April 28, I went to see the Scottish electro-pop band Chvrches, the first show of their tour. Besides my usual complaints about rock concerts*, the Chvrches concert at the Ritz in Raleigh was pretty good. The three members are excellent musicians, switching back and forth between instruments with ease. Most of Chvrches song are written quite well and have moments of "arrival" that really galvanize the audience (for more about the the songs, see my review of the album here). The lighting designer should have been given top billing with the band—while the lighting was not revolutionary, it was very well executed, fitting the form and adding to the music.

That said, there were some issues. The volume of bass and some of the drum sounds were too high and peaking the speakers, making the overall sound muddy and at times uncomfortable to listen to. Sometimes the lead singer Lauren Mayberry was out of tune, although that may have been a problem with the monitors. Mayberry also hasn't quite figured out what do to in singing breaks (not true of Martin, who has some great dance moves). There was at least one song that never really came together. Many of these problems could be attributed to this being the first show in this tour, and the group is still working out the kinks. In the end, the band had some great moments, but needs to work on its consistency.

One other complaint: The concert was basically Chvrches playing their recent album, The Bones of What You Believe. I don't think they played any new material, nor did they open the songs up for audience participation. They didn't even play any covers, for which they have a reputation. They also didn't talk very much on stage. Even though I don't like it when bands talk more than sing, I really wanted some more introductions of band members or explanations about the songs or even jokes—something to let us know we were having a personal, novel experience, which is what we paid for.

I also thought the concert opener, a DJ loop-based sampling act called Range was not a good pairing with Chvurch's song-based electro-pop. I could tell from the audience reaction that no one was really there to dance. Also, for being a dance DJ, Range's music seemed more cerebral than danceable, and even then I thought that the 45-minute no-pause set was boring after about the first 15 minutes—the pace of change was slow and the music did not change enough to be really interesting. Perhaps one reason for being uninteresting was the lack of repetition or musical return.

Vocab: peaking, sampling, electro-pop, cover

*The concert started 30 minutes after the time on the ticket, and the audience had already arrived an hour or two before that opening time to get a good seat. And by seat, I mean place to stand, since there aren't any seats. Also the opener wasn't announced anywhere, so the actual billed concert didn't start until almost two hours after the advertised start time, three (or more) hours after people got there, and was only a hour long. There's got to be a better way. I'm sure one reason concerts are set up this way are to get people to buy alcohol.

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