Glaswegian trio ‘Chvrches’ going out on tour again was something I was very much looking forward to. Not only was this a band I’d witnessed put on lively, fun, buoyant sets at both Reading and Citadel – but for the first time in my history of gig-going, I would be attending two dates on the same tour.
So, on Thursday, I took my first trip to London’s Alexandra Palace – which I, like many others, will refer to only as ‘Ally Pally’.
Aside from the quite frankly offensive London beer prices, Ally Pally was an impressive venue: a glorious hall with wonderful scope for some impressive production – no doubt a venue any band would want to play. The second thing which grabbed my attention was the audience: my mate and I were at least 10/15 years younger than the average age of the room, despite Chvrches releasing their first album a mere 6 years ago. Ordinarily, this would have not bothered me in the slightest, yet during the first song when me and my friend had a little boogie and a hearty ‘bro hug’, a gentleman turned around and put his finger to his mouth and then continued to scowl at us for half an hour. Gigs are for everybody to enjoy, and some people don’t like to dance and to sing (or in this case, even smile), but that left a sour tone in my mouth. Yet, looking around Ally Pally it looked like NO-ONE was having a good time. For what it’s worth, Chvrches may as well have performed to a hall of manikins. While Chvrches put on a satisfactory show, I was left wanting more. This didn’t feel like the band I’d fallen in love with at festivals – and this is something I’ll elaborate on later.
Thankfully, I had the chance to see them again at “old faithful” Rock City on Monday, and in truth I prayed the crowd would have a little more about them. The set list was pretty much identical to that of Ally Pally: they crusaded in with ‘Get Out’, and left us with ‘Never Say Die’ and ‘The Mother We Share’ following an encore. The latter was no doubt one of the show’s highlights – with lead singer Lauren reciting the first verse in a very stripped back manner, before the famous intro echoed around the venue. Personally, the high point of the night was ‘Clearest Blue’ and it’s electrifying build up in the latter stages of the song, complimented by the fast-paced flashing lights. But something I didn’t understand was why Chvrches hadn’t gone bigger on production for either of the two shows – the two crosses on the stage which Martin and Iain stood behind just looked a little out of place, and a bit minimalist on a stage of Ally Pally’s size.
Most gig reviews I read tend to be a list of the bands countless successes and heroics viewed through the rose-tinted glasses – alas this won’t be a review of that nature. While ‘Under the Tide’ is one of my favourite songs by Chvrches, I have no clue what Martin (the stand in frontman for 2 songs) was doing with himself. In stark contrast to Lauren’s slightly lacklustre stage presence (which I suppose is made up for by her stunning vocal performance), Martin let loose: climbing on the amplifier, throwing himself about, and twisting his hands in a fashion that was neither pleasurable or unpleasable to watch – just a bit weird. Furthermore, his track ‘God’s Plan’ should be renamed ‘God Awful’ after that Rock City performance. For me, it was pitchy and dull, and myself and countless others ducked out for a drink midway through that track – not running back to the audience in a hurry.
While Lauren did a credible job of entertaining the crowd, I was left wondering who the true Lauren Mayberry was. As a woman of 31, she appeared younger than the majority of the audience – and tailored her show as a result. While at Citadel and Reading she was vibrant, energetic, and owning the stage, at Rock City she joked about drinking her tea mid set and how back ache was the real problem of being out on tour – which got all the stern faced middle aged men chuckling away in what may have been their only smiles of the night.
I’m still digesting my own experiences from seeing one of my once favourite bands live twice in the space of 4 days – but while I’d happily see them at a festival, I think I can safely say I won’t be buying tickets for a Chvrches tour again.
Images by Shaun Wooton