I have a confession to make. My name is Robert, and I am new to CHVRCHES.
Well that’s not entirely accurate; CHVRCHES have been on my radar for some time. A good friend started singing their praises a few years ago and I always see their albums appearing in the Spotify feeds of people clearly cooler than me. They seem ever present in the music press, with the band’s view on gender issues within the music industry (and society in general) both fearless and refreshing. The Glaswegian electro-indie trio are a band I always knew, however I never them knew musically.
It almost feels dirty to make this admission as someone who (sometimes) writes about music. Here’s a band who have seen a meteoric rise to success while I had been listening to other things; lost in a sea of Future R&B, Retro-Soul and throw away bands. Fresh off an appearance at Coachella, their small break between weekends provided the perfect opportunity for me to acquaint myself a group who sold-out Oakland’s Fox twice over! And from the first booming chords of “Never Ending Circles” I could see just why they have so quickly become a band revered by indie-kids all over the world.
CHVRCHES – “Never Ending Circles”
As lead singer Lauren Mayberry launched herself in to the lights she seemed to explore each corner of the stage. Iain and Martin set further back made her stage roaming even more present. Each pause in the corner to observe her congregation seemed to squeeze more energy out of the crowd. It was hard for even a novice not to get caught up. CHVRCHES’ music has a sense of euphoria to it; if the lyrics don’t grab you the pulsating synths and crisp drums do.
As I wandered through the crowd, I could see their music affecting people in different ways; seas of jumping youth on the floor while groups of friends embraced as they spun around and jauntily dance on-and-off each beat at the back. A sense of freedom seemed to infect an audience full of a broad mix of fans – Nine Inch Nails and Franz Ferdinand were just some of the tour tees on display in a packed Fox Theater.
“If you only like the old record then you’re gonna be fine,” proclaimed Lauren early on in the set, quickly allaying any fears from those thinking the pit-stop in Oakland would be a new song heavy set. While their sophomore album, Every Eye Open, had all the hallmarks of recording with a bit more money, the band are where they are because of their debut, The Bones of What You Believe. Even as a newcomer to the altar of CHVRCHES you can see how a strong bond can easily be built with the album.
The music was infectious all-night, however the mini-interludes helped add diversity to the show. I usually dread those moments when a singer awkwardly jokes between songs. CHVRCHES were different and by the end of the night I was waiting to hear what Lauren Mayberry had to say next. Between weighing in on the election by disparaging Ted Cruz, or sharing stories about blowing her nose, these moments were sharp, witty, and very much tongue-in-cheek. It was clear they knew their liberal Bay Area audience by acknowledging these jokes may not go down so well in Texas!
By their own admission they “could have sold 200,000 more albums” if they pushed Lauren to the front and hidden Iain and Martin away. Their staunch dedication to promoting the fact the band is made of three members was further rewarding with Martin Doherty stepping up to perform both “High Enough To Carry You Over” and “Under The Tide.” I liked the way the set seemed to bounce between both albums in this way; we give you a new one, you get an old one.
By the time they worked towards the finale, the Fox was bouncing; watching from back as the floor became a wash of blue light with hands and bodies seeming to grow and sway in slow motion to “Leave A Trace” I fully understood what I had been missing out on. CHVRCHES are like your mates’ band getting big. There is something irreverent and personable about them that even after one show I feel like I want to take them down the pub for a quick pint and a natter. As I left The Fox following during the encore, I put on their debut album and walked towards BART, recognizing after tonight, I may now be a believer too!
Review and photos (of both CHVRCHES and opener Wolf Alice) by Robert Alleyne