ABC, Glasgow

Music review: CHVRCHES

4.00

 

“I've never been sick in the ABC,” informs Chvrches’ lead singer Lauren Mayberry helpfully, “but I've probably cried in the toilets.” Unsurprisingly for a young band who have spent the last month touring America, there’s a real sense of cut-loose homecoming as they return to their own city. Yet there are nerves too, coolly hidden beneath a professional exterior and the trio’s obvious joy to be doing this. Who wouldn’t feel a lump in the throat to be playing in a venue packed full with over a thousand people who were unknown just months before?

On such a large stage, in fact, the minimalism of Chvrches’ presence is stark, as if they’ve been designed for the smaller rooms they doubtless expected to be playing for a while longer and are working hard to make up the ground. The trio are lined up along the front of the stage - Mayberry gripping her mic stand in the middle, the baseball-capped Martin Docherty behind one of the keyboard podia shaped like a giant number 7 and the occasionally guitar-wielding Iain Cook (he’s known in Scotland for his decidedly un-Chvrches post-rock groups Aereogramme and Unwinding Hours) at the other.

From the balcony it’s possible to see the acres of space behind them and their game but possibly unfamiliar efforts to inject some dancing movement into the show, both of which non-drastic failings are obscured by the banks of powerful multi-coloured lights around them. Although they’re a declared trio of equals – Mayberry has spoken out against misogyny in music and runs a feminist club night in Glasgow, and all three eschew the put-the-female-out-the-front school of promotion – it’s their lead singer’s voice and ability which pushes itself to the fore.

There are an unseemly number of good songs here for a 70-minute set, including the FIFA 14-soundtracking “We Sink”, the piercing choruses of “Gun”, “Recover” and especially “The Mother We Share”, and a crystalline cover of Whitney Houston’s “It's Not Right But It's Okay”. Each plays upon an utterly winning musical formula of bright, upbeat synthesiser lines which mix clubby volume with an unashamed nod to commercial ‘80s synth-pop, at the heart of which lies Mayberry’s voice. It’s a folky, accented sound which mixes an almost girlish tone with a heartening, mature focus, singing lyrics which hint at an epic story without ever really telling it. Her confidence is infectious: “Beyoncé wouldn't feel embarrassed about it,” she declares, having false-started on the closing song, “so neither will I.”

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