One of the first things I noticed upon entering the Joy Theater Thursday night was the absolutely huge stage production that hung ominously behind the opener Lo Moon. Giant unused panels jutted from the ceiling, relatively obscured by the blue lights and smoke moving effortlessly through the stage and pouring out slowly over the already sizeable crowd.
CHVRCHES, the Glasgow trio featuring Laura, Ian, and Martin, has fought for and certainly deserves such a high stature in the world of indie synth rock. The sheer size of the crowd that soon before they played indicated that the band hasn’t completely missed its mark (like some critics would suggest) on maintaining a solid fan base. Much of this has to do with how well layered and produced their three albums to date have been.
Having said that, maybe we should first discuss the opener Lo Moon, if only for a fleeting second. When I entered, I wasn’t as impressed as I hoped I’d be. But by the end of the set, the foursome had really found their groove, and the alternative rock sound with a splash of shoegaze noise really worked well. I had only recently heard of them (when the show was announced, in fact), but alas, they are actually a band worth checking out.
Once the lights were up, the eclectic mix of the crowd became clear. Normal-looking fans abounded, and plenty of already-drunk people bounded about. There was also a guy in pink pants and a blazer with sunglasses on. They stayed on the entire set, I promise.
Once CHVRCHES came on, however, all of that disappeared, and the crowd went crazy. The strobes and darkly tinged lights welcomed the band’s arrival as they burst headlong into the first single off their third album Love is Dead, titled “Get Out.” It’s an obvious opener, but a really good one, nonetheless. Even from that first song, the band sounded wonderful and heavy, in a dark, electro type of way. “Gun” followed soon enough, as did the churning energy of “We Sink,” which has the great powerful line “If we sink, we lift our love.” To me, it’s just so strong and fearless, and as Laura Mayberry belted out those vocals, you could tell that everyone in the room connected with it. Except maybe the sunglasses guy, who knows.
Further on, the band ventured more into the most recent record. Coming next was the one-two punch of “Graffiti,” which lit up the stage and venue alike with soaring vocals and high-octane beats, followed by “Graves,” which featured nearly as many bounce-inducing moments as the rest of the earlier set had provided.
One of the best aspects of this show was how seamlessly the band flowed between songs, choosing to chat some but not much, while throwing a fair amount of songs from all the records to make one consistently upbeat dance party. The newly minted hit “Miracle” was better than it is on the album, and the darkly ominous stylings of the first-album track “Science/ Visions” helped lead the band down a darker road than a majority of the songs that came before it.
Hits seemed to come mostly at the end, with the first set ending with the ambitious and beautiful “Clearest Blue,” which nearly everyone ate up in reverence. Closing the show with their trademark “The Mother We Share” is an obvious move, but it’s also smart. It’s what they’re best-known for, and it’s an anthem of early 2010s indie rock. Most people who love this band got into them because of that track. CHVRCHES closed with the slow-tempo zoned-out vibes of “Never Say Die,” and while it’s not as intense as the previous songs, it’s a gorgeous way to end a show, leaving everyone without much hunger for more. Excellent concert, production, etc. Hopefully CHVRCHES will be back a little sooner next time, because the need will be there.