MTV Review | Chvrches Haunt Crowds At Somerset House
Lauren Mayberry and Co deliver a stripped-back performance at this year's Summer Series...
Thanks to their distinctive brand of synthpop and pixie-like lead singer Lauren Mayberry’s hauntingly beautiful vocals, Chvrches have cleverly carved out a niche for themselves, attracting a diverse fan base from the ever-so-cool hipsters of East London, to pure pop aficionados.
But though they’ve certainly captured the attention of a dedicated cult following, the Glasgow band have yet to achieve big time chart success - and given their outstanding headline performance at London’s legendary Somerset House (which, incidentally, sold out in an hour), it’s difficult to imagine why.
The Feeling: As the sun sets over one of the city’s most iconic buildings and the low-key trio take their place on stage and launch into the inescapably catchy We Sink, the crowd is abuzz with anticipation and giving off an appropriately electronic vibe. The strange juxtaposition of the band’s sound, though - heavy beats and bass set against melancholic lyrics, mostly about bad relationships - makes for an interesting atmosphere as some sway, while others give in to the music and dance the night away.
The Look: Their tunes might be complex and intricate, but Chvurches themselves are not. Mayberry and her bandmates Iain Cook and Martin Doherty aren’t show-offs, instead choosing to stick to a simple uniform of black and let their lights do the work for them. But it’s far from boring - shades of purple, red, blue and green bounce around the courtyard, focusing the attention on the sound rather than the stage show, and accentuating every beat.
Banter: It must be said that Chvrches aren’t a band with spectacular schtick. Almost self-consciously so. Mayberry awkwardly makes an effort between sets - with anecdotes about her old lady knees, among other things - but it’s clear she’d rather be singing (and frankly, she’s better at it). It’s all very charming, though, and the patter pleasantly buffets the crowd along between infectious electro choons.
Tunes: Among Chvrches catalogue are some fantastic classics, guaranteed to get a party started. The instantly recognisable singles Gun, Lies and Recover all inspire a bit of singing and hand-waving, but it’s the band’s breakout single, The Mother We Share, that really gets the crowd moving. There are some lovely quiet moments too, as Mayberry softly mesmerises the crowd with the chilled out Tether, and Doherty takes to the mic for the rather trippy You Caught The Light.
Special Guests: Sadly none, and while that’s not disappointing in itself, it would have been nice to hear one of the band’s famed cover versions. Hearing a bit of Whitney, MS MR or Lorde live with a Chvrches spin would have been a real treat.
Sweat Factor: While the crowd were certainly giving as much enthusiasm and energy as the band themselves, a Chvrches gig isn’t a first-pumping, foot-stomping sort of thing. It’s more of a relaxed affair - something to be infinitely grateful for on the hottest day of the year.
Celeb Spots: None, but with folks as humble and self-effacing as this trio, any overt celebrity presence might have rather rudely stolen the limelight.
Summary: Chvrches are a special band - and their fans a special breed. Just two years into their career, this is a band on the brink of huge international success - and those who haven’t yet converted should do so swiftly, before they become too big to enjoy in such a wonderfully intimate setting.
By Cat Collins @MTVUK