This CHVRCHES article was written by Ian Bourne, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Natalie Whitehouse
Atmospheric chanting introduces CHVRCHES, who launch into ‘Never Ending Circles’ from new album ‘Every Open Eye’. The venue is smaller than anything they’ll play in the months ahead, after the official album launch, but the sound is fantastic and the lighting works its magic. The song’s quiet moments are bathed in blue. For a first-ever performance it’s brilliant, and a brave opener. Songs from the new album are sprinkled through the set, and all get confident outings.
Green and then blue lights continue a loud-quiet theme for crowd favourite ‘We Sink’ from the first album, ‘The Bones Of What You Believe’, with its troubling chorus, “I’ll be a thorn in your side till you die” , and the boys joining in on backing vocals with a gutsy “say, say, say”. The music is European electro to its core, but the words are bitter-sweet Scottish to their heart. The song ends with a bang, not a second too long. That’s one of CHVRCHES’ favourite tricks, leaving you wanting a wee bit more as each number stops at a climax.
The first seven tracks alternate between the first album and brand new airings, of which ’Keep You On My Side’ is all thumping beat and fascinating lyrics.“I don’t sleep well,” Lauren Mayberry sings, “Every human touch will be repaid… I never lied so I could keep you on my side… We feel the same, without restraint, we feel the same, within our veins”. The crowd whoops approval. Oldie ‘Lies’ is brilliant churning electro, again with the blue lighting on quiet moments and a huge ending.
“We’re going to play some new stuff and some old stuff,” Lauren says. True to her word, another debut, ‘Empty Threat’, has her whacking away energetically on a small drum kit while Iain Cook gets front stage on bass. It’s instantly one for the fans to clap along to; a piece of pure synthpop. “That’s the first time I’ve played drums in front of humans since 2011,” says Lauren, before launching into ‘Tether’, on which Iain plays lovely guitar. It’s slow and really beautiful, with a burst of keyboards like 80s New Order and a guitar ending almost reminiscent of Joy Division, unlike the fade-out on the album.
Lauren gives a shout out to her dad, here again after dozens of gigs, then belts out the melody on the next number to premiere, ’Playing Dead’. And she has another go on those drums in a middle section burning in red light. It’s the first sign that CHVRCHES aren’t afraid of the traditional anthemic ballad. The pure disco of ‘Science/Visions’ from the first album gets a bit Krautrock with the lads growling “hear, your, feel, you” under the cold echo on Lauren’s voice. A brighter note, oddly, comes with ‘Gun’, “an older one”. It’s a complex arrangement, but also a bit like a twisted nursery rhyme: “I will be a gun and it’s you I’ll come for”. Again, where the album fades out, the live ending is spectacular. They do the same on the next song, which finishes just as you want to to explode. ‘Make Them Gold’ from the new LP is uplifting, with the crowd clapping along half way to the back of the admittedly small auditorium. Iain is by now working his arse off.
It’s Martin Doherty’s go on ‘Under The Tide’, where his turn as lead singer is called an “insanity workout” by Lauren. He sincerely loves it and so does the crowd. Self-deprecating Lauren says her stage presence is more like someone “compering a friend’s wedding”. But she gives it her all on ‘Leave A Trace’, the really well-crafted first single from the new album. “Please don’t think we’ve changed,” Lauren says appropriately as she introduces ‘Bury It’. The song seems to be about rising above criticism, and she twirls – at her most self-abandoned – as the scything bass drives it on.
An extended version of firm favourite ‘Recover’, with its deliberately distorted pop, and the latest single from the new album, ‘Clearest Blue’, which is great disco, close the set after over an hour. The encore starts with another first outing, ‘Afterglow’, an epic slice of slow sumptuous chords and moving lyrics: “I’ll find my own way back to the silence… I’ve given up all I can.” The final number, as usual, is ‘The Mother We Share’ and we’re all singing along. Lauren jokes it was easier when they only had nine songs, but if CHVRCHES keep up the energy levels and fun on this longer set for the tour ahead, they’ll be sure to win new congregants.