CHVRCHES at Fine Line, 6/08/13
Photo By Anna Gulbrandsen
With Still Corners
Fine Line Music Cafe, Minneapolis
June 8, 2013
The hotly tipped U.K. act CHVRCHES have generated a swelling buzz in the U.S. based on just an EP and singles. And at their sold-out Fine Line show on Saturday night, the Glaswegian trio also confidently demonstrated that they can captivate a room even when over half of the material performed has yet to be released.
CHVRCHES' first Minneapolis performance was a triumph, as the group's spirited, hour-long set featured overt nods to Prince, and they delivered twelve of their own synth-pop anthems, getting the festive crowd dancing along to their towering beats while boldly refuting any concerns that the band was all hype and little substance.
Opening the night was London's Still Corners, who proved to be the perfect pairing for the headliner. While their 40-minute set took a bit to catch a spark, and their songs didn't hit quite as hard as CHVRCHES, it was filled with textured, nostalgic numbers that easily won over the club. The group, performing as a quartet but led by vocalist Tessa Murray and multi-instrumentalist Greg Hughes, is touring behind their exquisite new record, Strange Pleasures, and a majority of their diaphanous performance drew from that ethereal collection.
While the band was a bit reticent on stage, save for a few friendly words from Murray, their show was augmented by a series of dreamlike images playing on a screen behind them, which added to the relaxed allure of their music. A pulsing version of "Beatcity" got the early portion of the set going, but it was a dynamic, synth-driven rendition of "Berlin Lovers" which really lit a fuse under the performance, as the hypnotic, vibrant track washed elegantly over the crowd. A Beach House-like version of "Fireflies" soared as well, and was quickly followed by an evocative run through of "Midnight Drive," which contained moody echoes of the xx within its simmering arrangement.
Photo By Anna Gulbrandsen
Murray mentioned how the last time Still Corners were in Minneapolis (in October of '11), they played the 7th Street Entry, and that there was a big, loud rap show going on next door that they had to compete with (the Smoker's Club Tour with Method Man, Curren$y, and Big K.R.I.T.). "So we always associate Minneapolis with that experience -- we'll see what happens this time," Murray said inquisitively as she lead the band through a shimmering take on "Future Age" which proved to be a highlight. The performance ended with an expansive rendition of "The Trip," with the group really expanding on the track's entrancing melody before abruptly bringing the song to a close and leaving the stage with a quick wave.
The stage was darkened and filled with smoke a good 10 minutes before CHVRCHES made their appearance, with a chopped-and-screwed "Dearly Beloved" intro to "Let's Go Crazy" setting the proper festive mood in the club. The band took to the stage as soon as the twisted beats of the track kicked in, they fluidly morphing the prerecorded audio into the churning pulse of their debut single, "Lies," which started the set (as well as CHVRCHES' career) with a shot, with Lauren Mayberry's vocals soaring over the textured beats generated by Iain Cook and Martin Doherty. "Hi, we're a band called Chvrches," Mayberry said a bit sheepishly to the roaring approval of the packed house. "This is our first time in Minneapolis, and we all couldn't really believe that we sold-out the club tonight. Thank you so much for coming."
A roiling version of the as-yet-unreleased "We Sink" kept the strong start going, with the entrancing light show augmenting the ominous mood of the number. Mayberry further endeared herself to the crowd (and perhaps showed her youthful age a bit) by admitting, "I first heard about this place from The Mighty Ducks 1 & 2, and when we got here I thought, 'Shit, I should have rewatched them in case I missed some major plots points that we'd come across.'" But we were gathered here for her musical prowess, not her taste in movies or how she first learned of Minneapolis, and the songs on offer were truly sublime. The dynamic shimmer of "Now is Not the Time" had a wistful electronic elegance to it, while "Lungs" sounded gigantic in the small room, as the track's choppy, emphatic beats really set the place off.
Photos By Anna Gulbrandsen
"So, this is our first headlining tour of the States," explained Mayberry. "And you're getting us at a good point, where we're well-rehearsed by now, but don't want to go home yet." She went on to tell us that they were going to play a bunch of songs from their forthcoming full-length, which is due out in September. And based on the imaginative electropop of the songs in their set, that record can't come soon enough. After getting playfully sidetracked by trading a few choice quotes and characters from the Mighty Ducks movies with the audience, Mayberry quickly got refocused on the show itself, "This is really boring, let's play some more songs. We put this song on the internet a couple weeks ago, so you might know it." A spellbinding version of "Gun" followed, with the track managing to be both a jubilant release as well as an ominous word of warning to an ex.
Mayberry, who was talkative and charming throughout the set, then told us a bit about their day, as they mentioned their in-studio session at the Current as well as their big steak dinner at Murray's, "But don't worry, we've had plenty of time to digest," she joked. A polished, stylish new song "Night Sky," featured a smooth dubstep breakdown at the end which got plenty of hands in the air as the crowd lost themselves in the mammoth beats. A moody, edgy take on "Science And Vision" echoed the baleful gloom of the Knife, while the anthemic "Strong Hand" was one of a few songs the band had just started playing live on this current tour.
The lovelorn, somber "Tether" found the stage bathed in a portentous blue light, with the slow-burning number gradually building to a euphoric, M83-like release at the end. The already incredible set then took off into the stratosphere with the towering, pure pop brilliance of "Recover," which found both the band and the crowd dancing in time to the track's massive, indelible chorus. It was quite simply one of the best live music moments of the year, and the band were rightly rewarded with a long, vigorous ovation.
Photos By Anna Gulbrandsen
Doherty then came out from behind his keyboards to assume lead vocals for the next track, taking a moment to acknowledge the crowd's warm response. "You are very kind, so very kind." He lead the band through another new song, "Tide," and his impassioned delivery and emphatic stage antics got the crowd right into the track, presenting a more forceful (and obviously more masculine) side of the band's penetrating sound. Mayberry took over the mic for the last number, appreciatively introducing it by saying, "Thanks for coming out -- we're a long way from home, and it's so nice to see so many of you here." And with that, the band closed out the set with a euphoric take on "The Mother We Share," with the crowd clapping along lustily with the song's swelling beats.
After the cheers from the crowd didn't show any signs of dying down, the band sheepishly took to the stage for the encore. "We were told that lots of bands cover songs by a certain someone here," Mayberry explained. "But I have to say that we're perhaps a bit more genuine because we've played this song in other cities too." CHVRCHES then ended the show with a pulsing, textured take on the Prince classic that has to be stylized for the occasion as, "I Would Die 4 V," with Cook's jagged guitar giving the jubilant song some added teeth, as he and the band brought the track and the set home to a rousing, well-earned ovation.
Mayberry mentioned that CHVRCHES would hopefully be back to Minneapolis later this year, and after their smashing Minneapolis debut at the Fine Line, that return engagement can't happen soon enough -- both for those of us who were lucky enough to be at this show, as well as the countless others who missed out. But that next performance will no doubt take place in a much larger room, as the talented trio continues to set the music world on fire one gig at a time.
Personal Bias: This was a dream double-bill that I've been looking forward to for a while now. I came into the show a fan of the few CHVRCHES songs that I'd heard, but had no idea how entrancing they were as a live act.
The Crowd: As packed as the Fine Line can get, but filled with electro-pop fans who were out to enjoy themselves on a Saturday night.
Overheard In The Crowd: "That song just made me lose my shit, man!"
Random Notebook Dump: I've never seen any of the Mighty Ducks movies, so I therefore got none of Lauren's references (though I do know they were set around here).
Now Is Not The Time
Science And Vision
The Mother We Share
I Would Die 4 V (Prince)(Encore)
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