By Phil Brown, Contributor
As I wrote in the fall concert preview a few issues back, the Scottish electronic pop trio CHVRCHES came through town on Wednesday. As you might have picked up on from the snippet I wrote for them, I think CHVRCHES is a pretty cool group and had been looking forward to this particular show for a long time.
I was not disappointed. The band played to a packed house downtown in Sokol Auditorium. This was the first time I had the pleasure of visiting this particular venue, and I really liked it. It has a pretty no-nonsense layout, a big open main floor and balconies. I don’t know why anyone would want to watch the show from the balconies, but they, along with every other square inch of the house, were filled with people.
I was honestly surprised at the amount of people there, certainly more than I’ve ever seen at any similar show in my limited concertgoing experience, and a very high percentage of them were enthusiastic and loud, singing along and dancing to every song.
This made the concert even more fun than it would have been with fewer people, and it was worth the constant fear that the girl next to me would hit me in the face with her flailing arms.
Lauren Mayberry, the lead singer of the group, remarked on the packed house in a break between songs, and the entire group seemed to feed off of the energy of the room, to the benefit of their act.
One thing I really appreciated was that the group seemed to really try to establish a connection with the crowd, chatting it up a bit every few songs. Lauren shared the fact that while this was their first-ever gig in Omaha, it was a trip she had been looking forward to since she was a teenager: she loved everything to do with Saddle Creek Records and Conor Oberst back in the day.
She mentioned that growing up in a small town, and feeling like the only one who wanted to make music, were things she felt she had in common with the groups of Oberst and friends (and by extension, I suppose, us).
Finally, while warning us that “it wasn’t on the internet,” Lauren mentioned that her first ever open-mic performance in her hometown was a rendition of Bright Eyes’ “Poison Oak.” These are the kind of details that really draw me in as a member of the audience, especially since I am kind of still enamoured with the work of Oberst, and live blocks away from Saddle Creek.
Finally, the most important aspect of the show, the music itself, was worth every penny of the admission price. I’ve decided that I must not listen to my music loud enough, or get better headphones, because the same tunes I’ve pored over on the digital album sounded about a billion times harder on the venue sound system, even more than usual.
The drum samples, which I’ve always found delightfully crunchy on the album, felt like the sonic equivalent of blocks of concrete. On “The Mother We Share” for example, the song they saved for almost-last, the syncopated snare hits, which mix in with the background so well when following along at home, felt like being hit in the face with a 2×4, in a good way. Songs like “Lungs”, which are already pretty gnarly, were almost impossible to resist dancing crazily to when the drums and bass kick in like triphammers.
The synths, and the crazy appregioed riffs sprinkled liberally throughout the band’s catalog, were phatter than ever.
The only thing that seemed to suffer would be the vocals which tended to be a trifle drowned out by all the other stuff going on. But I was still impressed with Lauren’s performance, and to a lesser extent, Martin Doherty’s verses on “Under the Tide”.
All in all, it was great, memorable show. I’ll definitely be going again if they ever come back to the vicinity, and you should too.