Chvrches Lifts Spirits At The Palladium CHVRCHES Concludes U.S. Tour With Two Performance In Los Angeles
LOS ANGELES, CA- Before CHVRCHES released their fourth studio album, Screen Violence, I was a bit nervous. While Lauren, Martin, and Iain often touched upon heady subjects in their music, there was always an underlying optimism throughout it all. When I learned that their latest album had a “horror movie” theme, that it was birthed during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic from band members’ “crippling depression and anxiety” I worried that the band’s sound would become noticeably darker in mood and tone. I mean, they had Robert Smith as a featured artist on a track titled “How Not To Drown” for crying out loud.
Thankfully, my unfounded fears were disproven.
Yes, this album is definitely darker than their last album, Love Is Dead, but it’s darker in that certain elements of the production hit subtly harder and dirtier, and melodies and note selection seem to lean more minor than major. Some songs even leans more “rock” (i.e. How Not To Drown”) than electronic.
Even the most “pop” songs on the album have subject matter that’s headier and more pointed than in past albums. But that doesn’t take away from the overall sonic template that initially drew me to CHVRCHES in the first place. Even when Lauren sings “No one ever warns you, you’ll die in California,” (“California”) you still want to move your feet dance away to the music that pumps out of the speakers. Disconsolate and joyful at the same time. An odd pairing that CHVRCHES effortlessly makes work.
There were supposed to be two opening acts for CHVRCHES at The Palladium, but one of the bands, Wet Leg, had to cancel last minute because of a COVID 19 related issue. Thankfully, the other opening act, Donna Missal, was healthy and ready to delight the Los Angeles crowd.
It had been several years since the last time I saw Donna Missal perform live. She absolutely blew me away in 2019 when I caught her perform at SXSW. I was particularly taken aback by the way she attacked her music with passionate ferocity.
Donna’s recent music has taken a slightly different path than what I remembered. Her two latest singles “(to me) your face is love” and “sex is good (but have you tried)” definitely lean more indie-electronic than the soul/R&B I heard her sing a few years ago. She performed both of those songs this evening, included a handful of songs that I wasn’t familiar with, and filled out the balance of her set with songs from her 2020 album Lighter. She even threw in a cover of Radiohead’s “Fake Plastic Trees”.
I wondered as I watched her perform whether her future music would lean more indie electronic going forward. If she continues on this path, I’d love for her to find a way to really take advantage of and incorporate that passion that I fell in love with the first time I caught her live. I could see/hear a step in that direction when she hit the bridge of “(to me) your face is love”, but I’d love see more of it. To me her passion is love.
I can’t begin to tell you how honored I felt covering one of CHVRCHES’ final performances of the North America leg of their Screen Violence tour. It’s amazing to realize that their tour went relatively off without a hitch, with only Iain getting sidelined with a quarantine stint for a few gigs after testing positive in Chicago. Their tour experience seems to be an exemplar of how recording artists should conduct themselves during these crazy times. I, for one, am grateful for their cautious professionalism.
When Lauren addressed the audience towards the start of their performance, she stated that the past two years have been “fucking crap” and further confessed that it could get worse. Despite that bitter pill of reality, she promised that we wouldn’t have to think about any of that for at least the next 15 songs. The room cheered with approval.
And the performance that was put on was one that made any and all fears and doubts fall by the wayside. Lauren and company seemed to channel all of their energy onto that stage… and the room fed off that spirit. When Lauren raised her arms in the air and held a stoic, confident pose, fans raised their arms into the air as well, pumping their fists or clapping their hands to the beat. When we see Lauren dancing like a whirling dervish on stage, the audience gets to share in that joyful expression of carefree freedom with jer. I’ve seen CHVRCHES in concert 5 times, and they never fail to hit all of the right nerves. They just know how to connect with the crowd, not only through their music, but through Lauren’s personable, and humble, demeanor.
As I looked around the room, I noticed virtually every set of lips was singing along, or at least mouthing the lyrics, with Lauren throughout the evening. The new songs were just as well-received as their known hits, and all of the voices enhanced the sense of communal joy that had already been established. The later we got into the performance, the louder the voices from the crowd got as if singing louder would make Lauren and company perform for longer than they had already scheduled.
The loudest the voices got was during the last song of their “regular” set: “Never Say Die”. With Lauren doused in fake blood that was donned for the performance of “Final Girl” to complete the “horror movie” motif, she conducted the audience during the chorus. As the house lights illuminated the singing crowd … in that moment.. nothing else mattered. Covid didn’t matter. Politics did matter. All that mattered were the voices that filled the room. All that mattered was that song and its message to stay optimistic despite the goings-on around you. I held my breath. It was a beautiful sight and moment to behold.
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