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CHVRCHES brings no new religion to Norfolk

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Scottish snythpop group CHVRCHES (pronounced "Churches") graced The Norva in Norfolk, VA on November 27th, turning out a surprisingly robust crowd for Thanksgiving Eve.

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CHVRCHES is comprised of the ever outspoken vocalist Lauren Mayberry (who has recently caused stirs by retaliating to sexually charged social media comments), Iain Cook on synthesizers/guitar/bass/vocals, and Martin Doherty on synthesizers/samplers/vocals. The band is currently touring the US in support of their debut album 'The Bones of What You Believe'.

Following openers Wet, a Brooklyn-based three piece whose name sounds akin to personal care products, CHVRCHES hit the stage to perform a total of... 13 songs. The band themselves seemed apologetic, saying how if you'd heard the album you knew it was all they had, before leaving in a quick fake-out prior to a one song encore. It seems they could have padded the just over an hour set with covers, however the show let out by 10:15, quite early by Norva standards.

The brevity of the performance at The Norva was not due to a lack of audience appreciation, however. The mostly male crowd, made up of hipsters and a few drunken or drug-addled ravers, were eager to sing along to single "The Mother We Share" and dance exuberantly along with Doherty's two stints at lead vocals. Yet sadly, for much of the show the crowd's energy was not matched by that of CHVRCHES.

The heavy electronic core and tightly choreographed production of CHVRCHES' synthpop is to be expected if you've heard their album. However, played live, Mayberry's ethereal and delicate voice was drowned out and overpowered by the considerable stack of electronics behind her. It almost felt as if Mayberry had lost control of her ship in stormy seas of rhythm and texture, letting herself fall into backing vocals for two synthesizer leads.

Doherty's helming of vocals was much stronger, and his deep voice and gruff Scottish accent were able to wrestle back all of the noise and find its own place amongst the so-called music. His energy was infections, and the expected raving and moshing for a gig like this only took place alongside his furious jumping and dancing about on stage.

Mayberry spent much of the set hiding in the fog and behind the seizure-inducing strobe lights, rarely stepping to the front of the stage. It seems hard to believe that she might be shy, as she certainly says what she pleases online. Mayberry also did not seem to have any qualms about speaking with the crowd about such trivial things as Thanksgiving dinner and pronunciation of Norfolk, chiming in between every few songs. The long pauses may have added brief minutes to the short show, but they felt like downers amongst the stream of electronica. She seemed too down-to-earth and normal to be playing the type of music she was presenting to The Norva.

Despite a possibly one-off lackluster performance, the production value behind CHVRCHES is definitely there. The stage setup could rival that of Depeche Mode's recent tour, on a much smaller scale, and the light show came out as the literal highlight of the night, wowing the typical Norva crowd used to the stage's weaker in-house setup. The band is yet young, with Norfolk being one of the small market stops, and the band was clearly surprised to have packed such a full house, so it is safe to assume that other venues down the road may enjoy a more lively show. At least, for the sake of $25 tickets, one can hope.

(For another reviewer's opinion of the show, please visit Fugitive Sounds)

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