Summer has come to an end and the official first day of fall snuck up on us abruptly this past Sunday. The end of the season tends to bum people out (it’s going to get dark so early, it’s going to be cold, it’s almost the new year, I never even got that summer body I wanted, whine, moan, etc etc), but CHVRCHES at the Greek Theatre had the perfect remedy to halt those end of summer blues — an amazing show!
The Scottish trio CHVRCHES was touring in support of their latest and thitd album Love is Dead, bringing their big, bittersweet synth tunes back to Los Angeles, where the album was recorded. Under a full moon and the ever so gorgeous setting of the Greek Theatre, the night could not have been more magical, especially for a big CHVRCHES fan like myself.
The new release marks the band’s third studio effort and it has honestly been one of my favorite albums released this year. The album welcomed in some bigger producers, and you can definitely hear it — the songs are a bit more intricate and textured but overall, CHVRCHES managed to stay true to their well known, hook loaded, epic synthpop sound. I’ve read mixed reviews about Love is Dead, many which give it a so-so rating and suggest that perhaps the music is starting to feel less ahead of its time, but I highly disagree. While there is always room for growth and change in the ever evolving world of artists, I also don’t see anything bad about honing a signature sound. So if you ask me (self certified, awesome music expert), the new album kicks ass! I think it’s just as good, if not better, than the last two releases and I couldn’t wait to hear the new songs performed live!
I had only seen CHVRCHES perform once before and it was at a festival (side note: I may or may not remember all of that show), so I was super excited to finally catch an actual headlining performance. My younger sister had gone to their San Diego show just a few days before and told me she was blown away with how great the concert was and sent me pictures, which made me even more eager for the show. I knew I was in for a good time, but I wasn’t expecting it to be one of the best shows I’ve been to.
The show was not sold out, which I felt a bit surprised by because I remember the last time I tried to get tickets to one of their two Hollywood Forever shows, it had sold out very quickly and yes, I know it’s a much bigger venue — but still…what the F people? GOOGLE CHVRCHES!! Spotify them! Just get on it! I can’t help but wonder why they aren’t totally mainstream yet? They’re so good! There’s always a part of me that feels torn because if they remain somewhat under the radar, I get to see them in smaller, more intimate venues, but then the other part of me knows they deserve more recognition and I think of all the crap on the radio and it makes my head spin.
It was still a solid turn out and the diverse crowd was very enthusiastic. I even spotted quite a few fans who sported lead singer Lauren Mayberry’s signature glittery eye make up.
Opening act was local rock band Lo Moon, who have been getting a lot of buzz lately. One of my good friends has been ranting and raving about them ever since she saw them at the Teragram Ballroom recently, so I was looking forward to catching their set as well. They have a very chill, relaxing vibe. Lead singer Matt Lowell has a beautifully, haunting voice that mesmerizes you and the ambient guitar textures are ethereal. I will say I really like this band- but I’m not sure they are a band to see at a big venue, at least not for the first time.
Their sound is so intimate, it’s the kind of music I want to listen to when I’m in a serene mood. The songs are all great- dreamy, slow burners that build and when they end climatically, you feel like you had some sort of spiritual experience. So okay, I can see why they are becoming so popular- they are crazy talented, the music is excellent and they have a sophisticated sound…but I think I prefer to listen to them as opposed to watching them live. Or maybe I’d enjoy them more at a small venue, such as the Troubadour. They played a good amount of songs from their debut record, including “This is It”, “Thorns” and one I really liked called “Real Love”. The chorus repeats “Real love, you try to fix it but it’s never enough.”
They ended their set with one of their most popular songs, “Loveless”, which is a phenomenal, melancholy song that hits you in all the feels. The smooth, soothing sound of Lo Moon may have been a perfect way to prepare the crowd for the contrasting high-energy CHVRCHES was about to unleash.
The stage was set up with a rig of lights on the back wall and light up crosses (their signature logo) that covered the synth modules on each side of the stage. I felt as giddy and eager as all the fans up front.
The trio came out and got right down to business, opening the night with the catchy tune, “Get Out”, from the new album. The opening beats immediately had the crowd clapping along. Mayberry, dressed in sparkly silver shorts (which later in the night she referred to as her ‘party pants’) black chunky boots and a shirt that read “Girls can do anything” (hell yeah!), ran all over the stage, singing while Iain Cook and Martin Doherty, both dressed in casual black tees, held it down on top of their synth towers.
Next they moved on to “Gun”, from their first album, The Bones of What You Believe. Damn, that’s a good track! Funny that with such menacing lyrics “I will be a gun, and it’s you I’ll come for” it brings me such joy to sing and dance to. The third song was one of my favorites (though I do have a lot ) “Bury It” from their second album Every Open Eye. Mayberry really got into this one, head-banging like crazy to the repeating chorus. Three songs in, I was totally in awe of the band.
Completely enthralled. Wow. They’re even better than I imagined!
Every now and then, the band gave the crowd a little banter in between songs. Mayberry was funny and charming. She went off on a silly rant about belly buttons, of all things, and how its funny to think that people take time to wash that part of their body. Then she proceeded to tell us “ I can turn my belly button inside out.” She told us she wouldn’t show us that trick (come on!) but assured us her bandmates have all witnessed it. Thanks for that tad bit of info Lauren. Also, noted… I will make sure to give my belly button some extra love in the shower.
Mayberry was frontperson most of the night, but took a short break to let Doherty take center stage for “God’s Plan”, followed by “Under the Tide”. He let loose and stomped all across the stage as the song built. Meanwhile, Mayberry took her turn hitting the synths. The tower was so tall, you could barely see the top of her head peeking out.
Cook expressed his gratitude for playing at the Greek theatre, stating that “Where I come from there’s like five thousand people, so this is a big fucking deal!” They also told the crowd it was a special night, being back in LA, because that is where they recorded the new album.
Mayberry talked about their last time in LA and how they spent hours in a local record shop, buying a lot of Depeche Mode merch. CHVRCHES has opened for Depeche Mode in the past and you can hear the influences a lot in their music, so I thought it was a cute story to share, seeing that they still adore the band so much. Also, I’m a huge D-Mode fan so anytime they are mentioned, my ears perk up. She also mentioned buying a Blonde Ambition shirt. (We have so much in common CHVRCHES — did we all just become best friends? Yup!
They kept the energy up all night and performed a lot of songs off the new record, including “Graffiti”, “Love is Dead”, “Forever”, and “Graves”. Midway through the set they performed one of my favorites, the new single “Miracle”, which has hit written all over it (and is currently in KROQ’s rotation).
When Mayberry sings out “If you feel it could you let me know” followed by the beat drop, the crowd definitely let her know they were feeling it! The Greek turned into one big dance party. It was one of the stand out songs of the night for me.
Mayberry has a powerful presence and commanded the stage like a pro. She got so into the song “Science/Visions” that while flinging her hair around, she threw the mic stand down. Afterwards she told the crowd “I’m always breaking things” then joked with her fist in the air, “in the name of punk rock!”
A tech guy ran on stage to quickly fix the stand. She decided to sit down after that for a slow song “Really Gone”. Mayberry kept the crowd intrigued with her Scottish soprano. It was an endearing moment in the show. She has a great voice and it was nice to hear it in this toned down way.
The night wouldn’t be complete without them playing some of their most cherished tunes. They played “Leave a Trace” and “Clearest Blue” towards the end of the set. The fan favorites had everyone up on their feet. They took a short break and came back for a two song encore. First up was “The Mother We Share” which Mayberry introduced as “the little song that could.” God, I love that song! They ended the night with another new song “Never Say Die”.
I cannot say enough good things about this band and the concert experience they gave me. It was absolutely incredible. Their concert was synthpop heaven. I was so impressed with how much each song sounded just as it does on the record — but better! Sometimes it’s hard for electronic bands to pull it off live but CHVRCHES knocked it out of the park! I know I loved a show when I want to listen to the band as soon as I get in my car and relive it over again and that’s exactly what I did. The band rocks and Mayberry is a sensational front person and after all the head banging and running around, I hope she took a seriously long child’s pose stretch backstage.
What else can I say? CHVRCHES, you are remarkable. Please keep making music so my new wave, 80’s lovin’ heart never gets sad! I have a feeling even more success is headed their way.
Words and photos by Betsy Martinez