There’s both a light and a dark edge to Chvrches' music.
Underneath the vibrant synths and propulsive beats, poignant lyrics express personal and social wounds. During a dynamic 90-minute set at the sold out Palace Theatre on Tuesday, the Glaswegian trio gave the crowd plenty of reasons to both dance and think.
Singer Lauren Mayberry looked like Degas' Dancer for the Resistance era, wearing a pearl-covered tutu and a T-shirt emblazoned with "Is It Enough Yet?" (lyrics from Chvrches’ "Heaven/Hell"). Her shimmering voice rang out strong and true over the booming, textured arrangements generated by Iain Cook, Martin Doherty, and touring drummer Johnny Scott, with the group sounding absolutely massive during their biggest (and best) Twin Cities show yet.
Chvrches ignited the evening straight away with "Get Out," the lead single from their new record, Love Is Dead, Fiery takes on "Gun" and "Bury It" quickly followed, as the set churned on without any break in momentum. "Hello! We are a band called Chvrches. Thanks so much for coming out to see us," Mayberry said as a quick introduction to an already captivated crowd.
"We Sink" sounded venomous, with its ominous refrain "I'll be a thorn in your side 'til you die" serving as a warning. Mayberry perched on the drum riser as Cook and Doherty crafted an M83-like coda for the track. After taking a moment to tie her shoes "so I won't trip and fall and have to file a claim," Mayberry downplayed the emotional significance of "Graffiti": "This is a song about feelings and stuff." And indeed, Chvrches’ songs do conjure up plenty of feelings and stuff—you just need to catch their message within the band's towering sonic landscapes.
Mayberry went behind the synths while Doherty took over vocal duties on spirited versions of "God's Plan" and "Under the Tide." "It's nice to be back," he announced appreciatively. "Time and time again, you keep selling out every time we come here. Thank you for that."
Mayberry returned to center stage for a rousing "Miracle," which came across as a desperate plea for unity. "If you feel it could you let me know?" Mayberry asked as the beat drops, and the raised arms and voices of the packed house responded emphatically to let her know we were on her side.
With its electronic pulse, "Science/Visions" proved to be one of the best songs of the set, launching a tempestuous run of tunes that closed out the main set on a high. "Deliverance" had an extra bite live compared to Greg Kurstin-produced studio version, while "Forever" played out like a guitar-fueled anthem of forgiveness despite ourselves.
At one point, Mayberry caught herself after saying, "Thanks guys…and girls. I've been doing that since the first tour. 'Thanks guys.' Ugh. Am I part of the problem? I think I'm part of the solution, but am I really just a dick?" She and Cook went to see the new Michael Moore documentary, Fahrenheit 11/9, she said, while Doherty spent the night seeing a great local band (Dr. Mambo's Combo?) at Bunkers, "This is such a great music town."
After briefly discussing the differences between Prince and Sinéad O'Connor's recordings of "Nothing Compares 2 U," Mayberry joked, "Let's play one of our own songs. It's not as good as 'Nothing Compares 2 U,' but it's OK." A far better than OK version of "Leave A Trace" followed, before "Clearest Blue" ended the main set, its Depeche Mode-like breakdown getting the crowd dancing (including this reviewer, who pogoed like a teenager).
The quick-hitting encore began with Mayberry announcing, "This is from our first record, which just turned five," before leading the band through a stirring version of "The Mother We Share" that turned into a lively singalong. "Never Say Die" ended the set on a hopeful yet urgent note, with Mayberry furiously stomping her feet while she ran in place—as though trying to stamp out the patriarchy itself.
Overheard in the c rowd: "I have no idea what they just said." Minnesotans were having a very tough time with Chvrches Glaswegian accents. And to that I say, try getting into a conversation with a weathered Glaswegian cabbie—then you'll really be confused.
A note a bout the stage set: Both Cook and Doherty's set ups were anchored by sideways crosses featured on the album cover. And the one stage left was only halfway lit, causing my mild case of OCD to flare up throughout the show, wanting/needing that cross to fully light up. Sadly, it never did.
Under the Tide
Leave a Trace
The Mother We Share
Never Say Die