CHVRCHES leading lady and serial heart-stopper Lauren Mayberry
So this is a bit of a late one, but some of you might care to know that I was witness to the brilliance of that Scottish synth-pop powerhouse, CHVRCHES the other week when they stopped by Sydney on their first Australian tour.
First of all, the Oxford Art Factory in Sydney is one of my favourite spots to watch live music. It’s a combination of everything that makes a good venue. Intimate enough to serve the music lovers, gritty and ‘underground’ enough to cater to the hip kids and the drinks menu is godly enough to shoot the most hardened alcoholic straight back to his teenage days.
City Calm Down lead singer, Jack Bourke.
Melbournites City Calm Down were the first and only support act for the night, jumping in head first (to my astonishment) with the single from their Movements EP, Sense Of Self. It was a gutsy start to say the least. The song shone brilliantly as an opener, but with not a lot of back ups for the crowd to cling to interest waivered for a lot of the set. But this isn’t a review of a crowd, this is a review of a kick-ass band and their kick-ass set. Which it was.
They didn’t lose a single step throughout, stampeding with confidence through tracks like Stay, oldies like You Can Have It Better and the finisher, Dare, letting loose their unique brand of smooth decisive vocal melodies and runaway synth. Dare, in particular, was a highlight as the closer. It’s a personal favourite from the album and that clangy catch-up guitar riff gets my head bopping every time.
Now, in the big scheme of things, CHVRCHES are pretty lucky to be playing the type of shows they are at the moment. Not to say they’re not worthy of them, but that they sky-rocketed to popularity on the back of a series of singles in a short time that quite visibly has caught them off guard, in the modest interviews they give and the quality of their set. Before they came out, the crowd too seemed unsure about the level of faith they were willing to invest in a band with such a short catalog available to the general public.
Without any bullshit opening stunt, they crept out onto the colourfully lit stage and waved hello. They opened with Lies which to be brutally honest isn’t my favourite track by them, which was also a reason I was stoked they got it out of the way early and loosened their nerves on it. Second up was We Sink which hasn’t been released apart from a live studio performance on YouTube. It was the first time I’d noticed the male synth player sings and I was widely impressed by how much they not only got away with it, but came out with a properly gnarly track considering his voice isn’t the absolute best I’ve ever heard.
One thing was clear from the start; it’s quite obvious that the quality of the music from CHVRCHES does not yet match up to the quality of the performance. Despite delivering what was, to me, an impeccably intense performance musically, they were pretty timid physically, presenting an odd image when paired with the giant pop tunes they’ve put together to make an incredible set.
The new album, The Bones Of What We Believe, doesn’t surface until September 23rd, so a lot of the set included top numbers that were new to the crowd, but by that point in the show they were delivered with such confidence and received with so much love. It was great to see the mild mannered synth player shimmy out the front to take over lead duties and throw down what was one of my favourites of the night.
CHVRCHES backup front guy, Martin Doherty
Towards the middle of the set we heard the Triple J favourites that some might consider to have launched the Scottish triplet into the Australian scene Recover and Gun. Both were intense to witness live. The anger and desperation encased in both songs screamed out with even more intent when played live, and lead singer (and keeper of my heart) Lauren Mayberry presented such a vulnerability in her performance that Sydney came together to carry her through it.
Reminiscent of the end of a Mortal Kombat fight, they had a crowd taken off guard, stunned and widely impressed at their mercy as they delivered what can be regarded as the “finishing move” of the CHVRCHES repoirte, The Mother We Share. They pulled at the crowds strings all the way through the set as said crowd jumped to the parts that rocked, swayed to the parts that moved and sang along like obedient choir boys to the whole fucking rest of it. I mean, if you had have compared the first song to the last, it was almost like a whole separate show. I was honestly impressed by the command and mastery that developed before our eyes.
As they simply said “Bye” and packed up shop all that can be said is that CHVRCHES are well worth the visit and well worth the praise they’ve received regardless of the short time they’ve been together. Make sure you follow the release of the debut album and watch them sky-rocket to a polished success. When they come back again in February next year for Laneway Festival 2014, I think we’ll see a completely different band altogether.
Obviously my smartphone wasn’t enough to be able to film anything worthy of posting, so for those of you who can’t paint the picture based on this review, check out a live clip of The Mother We Share by CHVRCHES below, taken from Detour in Scotland.