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Review / photos: Chvrches dazzle the Ritz Ybor in Tampa with striking lights, synth-pop hooks

Stephanie Bolling, Times Staff Writer

Tuesday, October 7, 2014 10:00pm

Electronic newcomer Chvrches (pronounced "churches") made their inaugural appearance in the Sunshine State this week, a year after their debut album The Bones of What You Believe peaked at No. 12 on the Billboard charts.

Their bubblegum synth-pop isn't everyone's cup of tea, but between being featured on the FIFA '14 soundtrack, covers of songs by artists ranging from Bauhaus to Prince and their ties to the esoteric witch house crew, they've garnered a diverse fan base hailing from their homestead in Scotland to an almost sold-out show at the Ritz Ybor Monday night.

Let me tell you, lead singer Lauren Mayberry is a petite lil' thing. Clad in all black and balanced out by some chunky clogs, she could barely be seen over the dense crowd. The sea of raised recording devices, including iPads (seriously, who brings an iPad to a show?), further impeded actually being able to see much. Thankfully, for visuals' sake, an array of LED lights encompassed the stage, repeatedly forming the pattern of their triangular logo in flashing streams of blues, reds, purples and greens.

Her two bandmates, Iain Cook and Martin Doherty, posted up on her sides, and only came out from their LED-laden mixing stations to showcase occasional vocals and guitar.

They rolled through We Sink, Lies and Lungs before even addressing the crowd. As the setlist progressed, Mayberry displayed some of her quirkiness and told personal anecdotes from encounters with bouncers to the book she is reading, and admitted to being a rather emotional person before playing Tether.

Having only one album to perform from limited their repertoire, but it meant that fans heard every single song off The Bones of What You Believe, plus two more (Richard Pryor and Strong Hand). The audience, with lovestruck looks in their eyes, went manic for all the hits and settled back down to idle until the next spaz-inducing single surfaced. The biggest hit, The Mother We Share, was the last song before their three-song encore. A fair amount of folks beelined for the door afterwards, missing an ethereal version of the Raveonettes-esque You Caught The Light and saccharine show closer By the Throat.

For freshman, the trio embodied the expected amount of pep -- nothing elaborate, but the right amount of effervescent youth reminiscent of most ambitious novices. While they evolve in showmanship (and maybe get Mayberry a pedestal so she can be better seen), they've certainly mastered their live sound. It was impeccable. Kudos to the Ritz, or the Chvrches sound system.

An overheard fan condensed the performance best in six words: "It's like a pop-up book."

-- Stephanie Bolling, tbt*