Monday, November 25, 2013

Review: CHVRCHES and Charli XCX

This weekend I went to two different pop shows presented in two very different ways. On Friday night I caught a very tidy hour long set from CHVRCHES at Stubb's. It's been cold here in Austin and I wasn't convinced I was ready to go to an outdoor show until about 90 minutes before CHVRCHES set was scheduled to begin. I grew up in cold climates but since I live in Austin now, I no longer own a proper winter jacket. So when the temps get cold, I just put layers and layers of spring/fall gear on. Mr. S. and I arrived about 15 minutes before CHVRCHES' set. I was interested in seeing the support act, Basecamp but I also didn't want to stand outside longer than necessary so, I missed their set.

CHVRCHES' set started on time. The sound-mix was quite good, although I wish there were someway to turn down the sound of the audience. Per usual there were lots of Chatty-Cathys, which is to be expected at any show really but that doesn't make it less annoying. This was my second time seeing CHVRCHES and my walk-away is that they sound at least as good as their record. The vocals are spot on, the musicianship is great, the stage lights are interesting, all in all it's a good show. The set was considerate of the cold and since the band only has an album's worth of material the set seemed to fly by. They played all of the songs you'd want to hear as good as you'd want to hear them.

CHVRCHES - Recover video via YouTube

Last night I saw Charli XCX at the Parish and it made me realize how safe and sterile the CHVRCHES show was. First of all, the Charli show was in a much more intimate space. Both shows were technically sold-out but neither show was actually full since people bailed on both shows. As far as musicianship, I think CHVRCHES was a technically better band. Charli had a live 3-piece but she also had a backing track. I don't know how much of what we were hearing was live and how much was track. With that being said, Charli put on a far superior show. Her show was more visceral, more punk rock, more dangerous. When the crowd was flaccid Charli demanded they give her more. "Austin! I thought you were meant to be crazy?" At one point she demanded the crowd go crazy for her, when they only went moderately bonkers, she gave us the finger. She wore sunglasses indoors, she whipped her hair around, she stood on speakers, she pouted and strutted around the stage. If Charli and CHVRCHES went to High School together, I think Charli might beat up CHVRCHES.

I will say that seeing CHVRCHES at the Parish would have been a far superior experience to seeing them at Stubb's but I feel like if Charli played Stubb's she would have commanded more attention. When it comes down to it both Charli XCX and CHVRCHES write great pop songs but Charli is part of the major label system and she is a major label star. She knows how to turn it on and she knows how to work an audience. CHVRCHES are great players and great songwriters but they aren't great performers yet. They didn't have the benefit of major-label bootcamp and they haven't been grinding it out in clubs for a decade either.

Don't get me wrong, I love CHVRCHES and if I hadn't seen both of these shows in one weekend I probably would never have thought to compare these artists but that's not the way things went down. I am glad I went to both shows and I would recommend you see both of these artists next time they come through town. I also expect that both of these artists will receive serious consideration when it comes to Best Albums of the Year time but that's another post entirely. I'll leave you with this final thought: CHVRCHES is that person who your family wants you to marry, Charli is that person who fucks you over time and time again but you just can't quit. Think Becky's boyfriend Mark on Roseanne.

Charli XCX - Superlove video YouTube