If someone described CHVRCHES to you, you would be forgiven for thinking they were nothing more than a 80s pastiche – melancholy electro-pop with more than a hint of the anthemic about it, created by two bearded producers in their thirties and fronted by a diminutive Scottish siren.
Indeed, despite their flourishing online popularity (their Soundcloud has well over 2 million listens at last check), CHVRCHES leave a little to be desired on record. Whilst the synths swirl and frontwoman Lauren Mayberry’s vocals soar, it can all end up a little unsatisfying.
Live, however, they are an entirely different proposition. It’s a good job no-one in the crowd has a pacemaker because the bass is powerful enough to stop one in its tracks; the synths are less introspective and more suited to a full moon party on Kho Phangan, and thus CHVRCHES are nothing like an 80s pastiche – they are an electro-pop outfit fit for the digital age.
And then there is Miss Mayberry. At 25, the baby of the group, she has a natural vulnerability that can come across at times as a lack of presence. In early videos of live performances, she appears wracked with nerves, desperate to get off the stage. But an intense touring schedule and high-profile support slots with the likes of Depeche Mode and Two Door Cinema Club has created a behemoth. Make no mistake, this is a special talent. Comparisons to Fever Ray or Robyn are more than justified, and on the night Mayberry is vocally flawless and visually fascinating. She doesn’t talk much, save for a one-liner or two about her choice of drink (“It’s not tea, honest, it’s like a mixture of seven spirits or something”) or to cut down a drunk fan (“I have no idea what you just shouted but I’m sure it was really interesting”), but she doesn’t need to. Her presence itself is enough.
Tracks that the audience had already heard (‘Lies’, ‘Recover’) are mixed with tracks from forthcoming album, The Bones of What You Believe, without a loss of interest or drop of tempo, and even a track sung by ex-Twilight Sad man Martin Doherty evolves into a climax fit for any chart anthem. How Madonna would kill for these tunes.
A brutish rendition of stand-out track ‘The Mother We Share’ ends the set, before they re-emerge to a rousing reception and finish with a cover of Prince’s ‘I Would Die 4 U’, by now a staple of their live set.
A quick word too for Young Fathers, the hip-hop trio from Edinburgh (who knew Scottish people could rap?), who produced one of those most incredibly disconcerting support slots of recent memory. Aggressive lyrics allied with deep bass drones is a bold formula, but Young Fathers have the acumen, and the ability, to pull it off.