It seems like a long time ago since Chvrches (silly ‘v’ instead of a ‘u’ and all) were tipped in the BBC Sound Of 2013 poll. It’s only really been in the last few months that they’ve gone from creating a buzz online to making a big splash in the mainstream. The Glaswegian trio’s debut, The Bones Of What You Believe, is only a few weeks old but a Top 10 placing in the album chart justifies a sell-out date at Shepherd’s Bush Empire – the final stop of a UK tour that could be considered a victory lap.
This new status means, for them at least, a tonne more lights than before. The stage is flanked by strobes left, right and centre – not quite a Nine Inch Nails-esque onslaught but still powerful enough to create an atmosphere. They are also, thankfully, not so overbearing that the band themselves are forgotten about entirely.
Iain Cook and Martin Doherty are positioned left and right behind their keyboard stations and singer Lauren Mayberry remains centre stage for the majority of the show. The latter is a watchable presence, even if she isn’t one for overtly attempting to pump up a crowd (as her rather sweet-natured banter shows). She’s also, she claims, struggling with the common cold, but it doesn’t show in her voice; she sounds as good as she does on the record.
That in itself is Chvrches’ only issue in the live setting – everything is kept close to the arrangements on the LP and, whilst that admittedly ensures no unnecessary self-satisfying five minute outros to songs that don’t need them, it’s a little too clinical and afraid to shake loose. Whether or not it’s by adding another drummer or throwing in some more organic sounds, they could almost certainly add more depth and strength to their tunes without sacrificing what they have.
If that’s a route they end up going down, their best moments will surely be even more dizzyingly euphoric. We Sink makes for a pulsating opener, Lies is a thumping standout, there is much rejoicing among the masses for Recover halfway through and the sweeping Night Sky suitably sparkles. Even Doherty gets a chance to step away from his synthesisers to take lead vocals for one song, Under The Tide, and relishes his opportunity in the spotlight by dancing in a frenetic Thom Yorke kind of way – utterly losing himself in the moment and doing much to raise the energy levels of the crowd.
The Mother We Share is a predictable closer but it has everyone chanting along in unison to its piercing vocal samples. A planned encore of Whitney Houston‘s It’s Not Right But It’s Okay is scrapped but it’s not something they’d needed to include. Their own material speaks enough volumes and just about hits all the right notes to warrant an hour of anyone’s time. This isn’t the explosive tour finale that might have been expected, but it is an economical and robust one that leaves everyone happy.