Chvrches @ Cardiff Solus, Cardiff, Wales 3.13.14
Posted by Daniel Wilcox on 03.17.2014
Scottish electro-pop trio Chvrches brought their debut album The Bones of What You Believe to Wales for a night of polished pop extravagance, but as the venues get bigger, how does the band handle the hype?
Chvrches – Cardiff University Solus, Cardiff, Wales [3.13.14]
1. We Sink
5. Night Sky
6. Strong Hand
10. Under the Tide
11. The Mother We Share
12. You Caught the Light
13. By the Throat
Chvrches' debut gig was less than two years ago. In a relatively short space of time, the band has come a long way and its success is solely down to a dedication to a frantic touring schedule and its ability to put out brilliant pop songs. The debut album The Bones of What You Believe was released worldwide last September to universal acclaim, making numerous year-end lists and forcing their way into bigger venues. The Scottish trio consisting of Lauren Mayberry, Iain Cook and Martin Dohery commenced their largest headline tour to date in Cardiff, Wales last week at the 2,20-capacity Solus venue in the Student's Union. The show was a sell out with support on the night from SOAK. The stage is a simplistic set up, with two sets of keyboards and synthesizers set up, one on the left and one of the right of lead singer Lauren Mayberry's microphone stand. It's clear from the get-go that guitars are not going to be particularly prominent at this show. At the back of the stage is a large lighting rig in the fashion of the band's logo, which can be seen on the front of the album. It's a straightforward set-up that focuses all of your attention onto the band's singer.
Lauren Mayberry is small in stature but big in presence. There could a million things going on on the stage around here and you're attention would still likely be focused on her. What's alarming about the whole thing is how effortless it all seems to be. If you look at the majority of female-fronted bands in 2014, many of them spend the majority of their live sets running up and down the stage trying to force something out of crowds less willing – hell, Taylor Momsen just flashes and that's about it. If you keep up with Lauren Mayberry's blogging, you'll know she's an intelligent, opinionated young woman and it makes her all the more likeable. Here she possesses an irrevocable appeal that keeps eyes fixated on her, like gravity. By the time she addresses the audience and introduces the band, about three songs in, it's with the charm and coyness of a girl next door with a secret. She almost comes across nervous, as if she's not quite sure how she ended up in front of a sold out audience of thousand.
But it all becomes clear when the band launches into set-opener “We Sink.” Chvrches got to this point on the basis of some of the best pop songs the music industry has been treated to for years. The songs here sound almost identical to how they sound on record, and it makes for an all the more captivating experience. Standing along the side of the stage and glancing over to the first few rows of fans, many young girls and boys but plenty of people in their 20s and 30s as well, you see eyes transfixed to the stage, heads bobbing in unison with strobe lights illuminating raptured faces from front to back. There's plenty of phones up as well, seemingly attempt to snap a new picture every time the colour of the lighting set up changes. This is the world we live in 2014. At this point Chvrches are performing with such professionalism it seems to almost be coming too easy as they rattle through crowd-pleasers “Lies” and “Gun.” The crowd cheers enthusiastically at the conclusion of every track, but they don't seem to be particularly moved. For all her irresistible charm, Mayberry seems content to let the crowd enjoy the dulcet tones of her voice and the music without particularly exerting themselves. You do wonder if her natural charisma will be able to charm the inevitably much bigger audiences that await this band, even as soon as this summer when they hit the festival circuit.
“Night Sky” and “Science/Visions” are two personal favourite tracks from The Bones of What You Believe and they're delivered back to back with a unanimous confidence mid-set. Then the band launches into the mammoth “Recover” and the audience seems to come unglued somewhat. Arms are thrown up in the air, there's some questionable dancing and people are making out under a blanket of blinding lights, potentially missing the point of the song. All of a sudden it's an electric atmosphere and the crowd is singing back every word. Mayberry has come alive, and the boys behind their keyboards are doing their level best to enthuse the crowd even more. Doherty comes out from behind his perch to take lead vocals on “Under the Tide,” and brings a much more raucousness to proceedings, his frantic dancing suggesting that the bright lights have finally got to him and he's having some sort of fit. It's a tactic that the audience respond to though, and it feels like we're just about warmed up when the band hits us with “The Mother We Share,” which receives the biggest reaction of the night, unsurprisingly. Mayberry's delivery is pinpoint here, and it's clear that while there's work to do, this is a band that can be a considerable force in any live music venue.
Following a short intermission, Doherty takes lead vocals again for the much more understated and slow-burning “You Caught the Light.” The audience always appreciates the shortest possible breaks between main set and encore, and the band did well on that front. Set-closer “By the Throat” encourages some more half-hearted movements from the crowd, but it's clear that everyone's just dazzled by the music at this stage. The delivery is incredibly clear and crisp, almost a little too polished, and it's truly amazing to think this trio only played their first show together in the summer of 2012. “By the Throat” brings the show to an end after barely an hour, but it was an hour packed with incredible electro-pop hooks that soared around the room uncontrollably, with small smatterings of Scottish charm thrown in between songs. Some of the banter may have got lost somewhere between Welsh and Scottish dialects, but the charm was inescapable, as was the power of the band's thirteen tracks here. Bigger stages and brighter lights beckon for these three.
Chvrches - “The Mother We Share”
Chvrches continue to tour Europe this month before heading over to the United States in April, including a set at Coachella festival. Following an extensive North American tour, the band then hit the festival circuit throughout the summer.
The 411: The Bones of What You Believe was one of my favourite records of 2013, so it's no surprise that this was an enjoyable time spent for myself. The songs sounded great in what is still a fairly intimate venue, and as such it was hard not to enjoy yourself at this show. Each member of the band, frontwoman Lauren Mayberry in particular, has a subtle stage presence that means it's not always necessary to run around the stage flailing like a mad men, because the crowd were in lost in a rapture throughout. If there's any disappointing aspect to this show it's the relatively short length, but that's something you could expect going in baring in mind the minimal back catalogue. Chvrches are definitely a band worth listening to, and I would recommend seeing them live as soon as possible before they really blow up. It's inevitable. Chvrches are on the rise.