In an extremely Baltic Newcastle (pardon my pun), scores of gig goers lined up waiting to enter Newcastle’s O2 Academy in anticipation of catching Scottish three piece electro-pop band Chvrches fronted by Lauren Mayberry and joined by Iain Cook and Martin Doherty.
Mayberry has recently been in the spotlight campaigning for equality between the sexes as well as the fight against misogynistic trolls of late, something that has been widely covered on media outlets. I went into the gig wondering if Chvrches’ music had been lost underneath all of these column inches, but having spoken to a few people, like everyone else who had braved the freezing cold it was clear that we were there for the music not the headlines.
As the lights went down only a single panel of light emitted from the impressive backdrop, Lauren Mayberry walked gracefully into the centre of the stage. Cast into a silhouette, she held the microphone above her head, and as the lights flickered she dashed towards the front of the stage.
Opening with ‘Never Ending Circles’ from the band’s latest album ‘Every Open Eye’, it was an excellent choice for a warm up as Cook and Doherty provided the synth, literally trapped either side behind their instruments. They gave way for Mayberry to stride side to side across the stage as the beat of the song pulsated in tandem with the lights. It certainly got the audience warmed up from a chilly autumn’s night.
Lauren Mayberry told anecdotes in between each song – “I came here to see The Futureheads vs Maximo Park and I felt really old,” – so she ended up sitting down. However, like a true journalist (Mayberry has a master’s degree in journalism), she maintained not only impartiality but also much diplomacy by not saying which band she had rooted for during that gig, as it was Newcastle’s own Maximo Park pitted against local rivals Sunderland’s The Futureheads.
‘Science/Visions’ from their debut album The Bones Of What You Believe was the highlight of my night and a personal favourite by the band. It gave Cook and Doherty a chance to provide some more noticeable backing vocals. Straying away from a very energetic set list Mayberry sang ‘Afterglow’ as the penultimate song of the encore. Her soft vocals calmed the fans before predictably ending on a high with the catchy ‘The Mother We Share.’
It is hard to stand out in any genre of music, when a lot of electro-synth bands can sound very similar, but Chvrches are certainly hard not to ignore, especially when Lauren Mayberry provides such an energetic and entrancing performance and they produce such enlightening and memorable songs. While it may not come across in their studio albums all the time, they are well worth seeing live.
Photo credit: Luke Hannaford