Concert Review: Diana, CHVRCHES @ Virgin Mobile Mod Club, Toronto, Canada (Canadian Music Week 2013)

Buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. That sound you hear is the insane amount of buzz that Glasgow’s CHVRCHES had before last night’s gig at Virgin Mobile Mod Club, as part of Canadian Music Week. The band landed in America for the first time, played SXSW and promptly won the Inaugural Grulke Prize at SXSW 2013 for Developing Non-US Act. Of course, all of this was merely a warm up for Canadian Music Week, right?

Tickets were hard to come by on this cold night, but if you were one of the lucky ones, you saw one hell of a show at the Mod Club last night. Before CHVRCHES hit the stage, the crowd were treated to openers Diana.

Chvrches Mod Club (Copytight: PeteHatesMusic / Martin Bazyl Photography)

CHVRCHES @ Mod Club (Copytight: PeteHatesMusic / Martin Bazyl Photography)

I don’t know if it was the nonchalant manner in which they entered the stage, but the applause to welcome Diana to the stage was pitiful! I was ashamed to be in the crowd. The 4-piece Toronto band are fronted by Carmen Elle, who brings a subtle and often gentle style to the waves of synth the band provided.

In case you were in some bizarre Canadian Music Week pool and were wondering if a saxophone made an appearance last night, you would be happy to hear a resounding yes. It showed up on the 2nd track, a song that had no real structure and was impressive if not both chaotic and unappealing.

After the track, Carmen asked “Can anyone tell me what the Harlem shake is? I tried to Google it and could not find anything about it. Is it a song or a dance?” Pretty sure she was joking, but she did seem convincing in her confusion.

Diana @ Mod Club (Copytight: PeteHatesMusic / Martin Bazyl Photography)

Diana @ Mod Club (Copytight: PeteHatesMusic / Martin Bazyl Photography)

The 3rd track had a funky vibe with the instrumentation constantly changing, providing a unique sound. After the song, Carmen said “Give it up for CHVRCHES. They made a smart move with a “v” in their name. We are hard to Google. Should’ve done Diana with a 1.” P3T3H8SMUS1C is what I should’ve done, right?

The 4th track was an instrumental one, while the 5th song saw the return of the sax in another good song. The next track had a lone sax intro, reminscient of the Intro to Gorillaz’s Demon Days in terms of sparseness.

In total, the band played 8 songs. Musically, I enjoyed them. I can’t put my finger on it, but I wanted to like more given their individual parts and their original song structures. I guess it’s a case of the sum being greater than the whole. The chilled vocals, as good as they were, didn’t necessarily go with the songs.

CHVRCHES came out to rapturous applause, providing a big sound. And then the petite Lauren Mayberry made an appearance in stark contrast to that sound. It was the band’s first time in Canada, and they opened with Lies (which I’m not feeding you in this review, promise).

CHVRCHES @ Mod Club (Copytight: PeteHatesMusic / Martin Bazyl Photography)

CHVRCHES @ Mod Club (Copytight: PeteHatesMusic / Martin Bazyl Photography)

The 2nd song was a new track, If We Sink, which had the 2 male band members – Iain Cook and Martin Doherty – join in on the vocals, with Martin co-singing with Lauren for much of the track.

The next track was another new one called Lungs. The band noted that this was the last stop on their tour. It looks like Lauren might’ve been feeling the exhaustion, as she barely moved around the stage, choosing to play with the microphone cord as she sang. Or maybe she’s just a timid, little girl.

Lauren thanked someone off stage for the slick delivery of the tambourine, which she broke out for the next track, Gun. The track has an absolutely thumping chorus and was the stand out track of all of the new ones I heard tonight.

CHVRCHES @ Mod Club (Copytight: PeteHatesMusic / Martin Bazyl Photography)

CHVRCHES @ Mod Club (Copytight: PeteHatesMusic / Martin Bazyl Photography)

The 5th track was a track off of upcoming Recover EP called Now is Not the Time (which is what I often say to my cat when it wants to make a viral YouTube video). A vocal and bass drum intro kicked off the next song, Science, which was fairly anonymous until a great synth line near the end, which when mixed with the pulsating beat took the song to another level.

Up next was a track called Night Sky, which had some interesting vocal synth work that oddly wasn’t far off the Jingle Cats sound. However, like most tracks, the bottom end was always powerful.

The title track for the band’s EP, which is out next week, followed. Recover was very similar to the studio version, which is obviously a good thing as it’s such a great song. Lauren powered through the song, providing stellar vocals throughout. She then announced that Martin is going to sing now, and he did, taking the lead on Tide.

CHVRCHES - Mod Club (Copyright: PeteHatesMusic_/ Martin Bazyl Photography)

CHVRCHES – Mod Club (Copyright: PeteHatesMusic / Martin Bazyl Photography)

Martin immediately brought more energy to the lead singing spot, moving and bouncing around the stage like a confident rapper (although he didn’t rap, much to my chagrin). He did note that “this song will be on the album, which will be out sooner than you think.” You under estimate when I think the album will be out, Martin!

The final song of the set ellicited the loudest cheers, as CHVRCHES launched into The Mother We Share. Another big sounding electro pop song that the band seems to do so well, and the crowd were in full dance mode (which is a mode I never leave, by the way).

The band weren’t done, coming back on for a quick encore, and noting “This isn’t our song, we stole it.” The song they stole was I Would Die 4 U by Prince, and it’s not like he has lots of money to sue bands who cover him should he choose…

CHVRCHES @ Mod Club (Copytight: PeteHatesMusic / Martin Bazyl Photography)

CHVRCHES @ Mod Club (Copytight: PeteHatesMusic / Martin Bazyl Photography)

So that ended the first ever Canadian show for CHVRCHES. They brought a big, electro synth pop sound, with a great (and easy on the eyes) vocalist and had the crowd dancing. Don’t expect the buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz to die down any time soon.

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PHM Rating for Diana: 7.5 out of 10
PHM Rating for CHVRCHES: 9.0 out of 10

Setlist for CHVRCHES @ The Virgin Mobile Mod Club, Toronto, Canada – March 20, 2013

(note: the set list they used had songs 4 and 5 switched, but my notes say otherwise, as I recognized the 5th track as Now is Not the Time. I’m going with my notes – argue as you see fit)

1 – Lies
2 – If We Sink
3 – Lungs
4 – Gun
5 – Now is Not the Time
6 – Science
7 – Night Sky
8 – Recover
9 – Tide
10 – The Mother We Share

11 – I Would Die 4 U (Prince cover)

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1 Response

  1. Rob says:

    I’ll just have to say this… I was, again, very disapointed with the Toronto audience. I thought Diana were really great but 70% of the half-full venue while they were on were either talking extremely loud or texting etc. WTF is going on! I could barely hear the band. I think if people had actually shut up and listened to Diana they would have engaged more. This kind of behaviour has become more the norm in the last couple of years to the point where I might decline going to these size venues…Lee’s and The Phoenix come to mind.

    Other than that I thought the music last night was very good.

    Good site Pete. Keep up the good work.