Edinburgh Corn Exchange
Consisting of lead vocalist Lauren Mayberry and band mates Iain Cook and Martin Doherty, Chvrches have taken the indie music scene by storm over the past couple of years, swiftly rising from unknown newcomers to international success with their synth-driven, yet accessible tracks. Following last year’s release of their debut album The Bones Of What You Believe, the Glaswegian electro-pop trio return home to Scotland, as part of their UK tour. The stage is set: heavy strobes against a neon lit backdrop and an eclectic demographic milling in the room. Gracing the stage at the Edinburgh Corn Exchange on Bonfire Night, they play a set loaded with catchy hooks, hypnotic beats, compelling lyrics and intriguing textures, all blended perfectly together.
Disappointingly, the audience initially lacks a bit of energy, radiating a sense of hesitation when faced with hip-hop act Lizzo‘s opening set, an odd musical choice to get the crowd warmed up. However, when Chvrches claim the stage, launching straight into ‘We Sink’, the infectious electronic beats and powerful hooks flood the room, Mayberry’s refreshingly sweet vocals grasping at the lyrics “I’ll be a thorn in your side till you die”. With the flash of strobe lighting and lasers bouncing off the ceiling creating effects of distortion and confusion, the band flows into their debut single ‘Lies’, evoking more of a reaction from the audience but unfortunately lacking the deserved response as the synth heavy riffs radiate through the venue.
In terms of audience interaction, Mayberry fires out witty and charming anecdotes but seems to lack any real connection with the crowd, therefore diminishing her stage presence and making the interaction seem slightly forced and awkward.
Another highlight of the set is ‘Gun’, with an addictive melody and an upbeat pop-like feel to the track. Similarly, ‘Recover’ receives a positive reaction, with an incredibly catchy chorus.
Elsewhere, the ethereal and distorted sound of ‘Science and Visions’ oozes a surreal eeriness into the evening with unsettling vocals and anxious riffs building up the tension. The beautiful lighting design has to be noted at this point – the set being accompanied by bursts of colourful light and flashes of energetic strobes, weaving together to produce an aesthetically impressive show.
The band complete their set by enthusiastically launching into anthem ‘The Mother We Share’, truly a track of substance featuring striking vocals and beautifully bitter lyrics, “and the mother we share will never keep our cold hearts from thawing”, all with stunning echoing tin-like synths. This is the point at which the energy finally picks up amongst the crowd, with the previously felt hesitation transforming into a lively, buzzing atmosphere, just in time for the finale. The yearning for an encore is delivered as Chvrches return for a three-track closure to the show. It includes ‘Dead Air’, a track which will be featuring on the soundtrack for the soon to be released The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, which will no doubt evoke much deserved wider recognition of the talented Scottish trio.
Although Chvrches play a dynamic set with their distinctive sound, the trio are somewhat limited by their material. But this is to be expected from any upcoming band. Their live performance slightly lacks creativity and energy making for a rather awkward ambiance. At times, Mayberry’s soft and delicate vocals are a little too easily overshadowed by the instrumental noise of the tracks produced by her male counterparts.
Overall, despite Chvrches suffering a few teething problems (to be expected when transferring electronic music to a live concert setting), they have incredible precision for a young and developing band, and seem extremely comfortable and confident (and rightly so) with their sound, making for a successful live showcase. The band need to strive to reflect their upbeat energy and enthusiasm with the crowd and would perhaps have fared better in a smaller club-like venue rather than the large bare hall of the Corn Exchange, in order to achieve a friendlier atmosphere. It is clear that Chvrches will continue to grow, becoming increasingly important in the future of Scottish indie music, creating dynamic and accessible electro-pop.