By Cameron Cairns
I don’t imagine that it’s very often that we review former alumni in the Strathclyde Telegraph, yet that’s the unique position I found myself in last Saturday night when seeing Glasgow’s own hometown heroes CHVRCHES play at SWG3. Fresh off the back of a performance at the NME Awards in London and an extensive North American tour, the group were in full force touring in support of last August’s fantastic horror-inspired Screen Violence album. Being shepherded into a cavernous bare room of brick and metal booming pre-gig tracks over the speakers ranging from the Halloween theme to the Beastie Boys rarity Looking Down The Barrel Of A Gun, I felt like the hapless kidnapped victim in an 80’s hammer horror feature, fearful for myown safety.
When the lights went down and the band launched into an amped up rendition of He Said She Said from their most recent record, all fears were dispelled. Bathed in blue, frontwoman Lauren Mayberry launched into spins, pirouettes and high kicks, like a spinning top in a leather dress and Burberry coat. “Hi, I’m warm and we’re CHVRCHES” she giggled as she fought to untangle herself from her jacket. After second track ‘Forever’ from 2018’s Love Is Dead which concluded with tasty soloing from Iain Cook stepping out from behind an array of synths, Lauren continued to joke “I hope you all love my jacket! It’s all puffy in the shoulders for the girlies and the gays” to many laughs from those in attendance. With all joking aside however, her performance was exemplary all evening through, not relenting in energy for a single moment, holding arms aloft and belting out high notes with great sustain. Next came album standout California which saw the stage decked in an orange Californian glow, before How Not To Drown, with its thunderous drums and dual guitar noodling over an extended instrumental like a shoegaze dream come true as Mayberry ran below deck for a costume change. The frenetic drumbeats of ‘Violent Delights’ closed out the ‘Screen Violence’ trifecta, with Mayberry screaming that “we’ll never be alone again”.
‘Bury It’ from sophomore album Every Open Eye had a particularly strong vocal outing, with mass singalongs from the receptive crowd. Instrumentalist Martin Doherty set the record straight regarding the cancellation of their Dundee gig, announcing “You will have seen a lot of shite online about how we hate Dundee, and we don’t want to go to Dundee. We do! I caught covid down in London at the NME Awards, we’re being called liars, but I was coughing out my arse for five days in a hotel room!” to ripples of laughter. Science and Visionsfrom their debut album had a particularly warm reception, the stage bathed in green as Mayberry conducted a mass clap along to a thumping bass drum, fittingly making you feel like blood would spill from the ceiling at any moment like the rave scene in ‘Blade’. “It’s so good being back home in Scotland, you all understand me and get my jokes unlike in the states” she joked before thanking us for “coming out on a Saturday night… it is Saturday, isn’t it?” she asked in confusion while looking to her bandmates for confirmation. ‘Final Girl’ saw Mayberry change once again (for the third time) into a t-shirt emblazoned with the title of the track, and finally conducting a mass “DIDN’T YOU SAY THAT” sing-along for main set closer ‘Never Say Die’.
The Encore saw her re-emerge covered in fake blood for a stomping rendition of ‘Asking For a Friend’ where she had all in attendance excitedly jumping to the beat. Important early track ‘The Mother We Share’ saw great reception before concluding on personal favourite Clearest Blue which saw Mayberry cry “So please say that you’ll meet me, meet me halfway”.Any fears that the production heavy tracks would falter in a live setting were quickly proven to be unfounded, with the group putting on a fantastic performance of electro bangers and synthpop stompers. On home turf there was nothing aloof about the group, at times the performance feeling like your big sister and her mateswere treating you an impromptu session in their living room, with Lauren running around like a Duracell bunny in a leather jumpsuit or a mannequin of a young Madonna possessed by a poltergeist, never faltering for a moment in having fun, and heaps of it. Special thanks must be paid to the lighting technician for working so tirelessly to perfectly accentuate the mood of each beat of every song, working even harder due to the lack of screens behind the band that had accompanied them on their tour. Well done to all involved.