Words: Adam Muir.
Because who needs fireworks when you’ve got a sh*tload of lasers?
On a night where all over the UK people were standing outside in the cold, watching rockets explode colourfully to celebrate a man who almost blew up the Houses of Parliament (?), I was inside, warm, watching CHVRCHES put on their own stunning light show. And it was glorious.
But first we need to talk about Lizzo.
Never have I seen an act turn a crowd from disinterested/perplexed to all out arm waving silliness quite as quickly as Detroit hip hop artist Lizzo did. After a tepid reception to her DJ/hype girl Sophia E, Lizzo took to the stage and things quickly got fun. At first we were hesitant, but her sheer energy, tongue in cheek performance, and playful crowd banter had us all bouncing and waving our “wee lass arms” (™ Lizzo). She even got a victim up on stage to twerk for her. He left with a little less dignity and an appropriate “Lizzo made me do it” t-shirt.
I’m not sure how qualified I am to judge her music, not being versed on hip hop/rap. There’s an inevitable Nicki Minaj comparison: Quirky rap at machine-gun pace, but that’s face value. Lizzo sings & raps fierce and has character of her own. Everything she did, she did well, she loved the crowd and the crowd loved her.
Onto CHVRCHES, there was no slow start. The crowd were jumping to the woodpecker synth of We Sink before the band had even taken to the stage. There’s only so much I can say about the music: it was great. They played every tune from début The Bones of what You Believe plus two new ones immaculately. Frontwoman Lauren Mayberry’s vocals were strong & clear, the bass was punchy and the synths sparkly. Really, they sound live like they do on record, except more infectious, spacious and epic.
The only way to compliment such a polished electro performance is with lasers. And lights. And sparkles. Gah! It was so pretty!
*Cough* What I mean is the light show was seriously striking, and catered beautifully to each song. There were glittering star-like lights during Night Sky, laser prism cages during slow burner You Caught the Light, and shining blooms to the lifting chorus of The Mother We Share. Occasionally Lauren Mayberry would step back, becoming a dancing silhouette while the synths and lights took the lead. A standout moment was Science/Visions. Live it was akin to seeing a fun size Cleopatra heralding the coming of the Apocalypse, among green lasers and edgy synths.
All of this was completely juxtaposed with the moments between songs when the band addressed the crowd. The lights go down and it’s like a band in a pub are chatting to you. Synthmen Ian Cook & Martin Doherty stop being constantly grooving shapes and become two blokes behind keyboards. And Mayberry goes from this striking focus point to a mild-mannered, regular lass.
It’s not a bad thing. The crowd chat gave some breathing space. The anecdotes were charming & witty (“we wanted to trick you into thinking we’d left the stage… but then we realized we couldn’t really hide anywhere.”), and showed us how genuine CHVRCHES are. They are happy, humble and thankful for how far they’ve come.
From Hunger Games humour falling flat at on a cold crowd, to contributing new song Dead Air to the soundtrack of this year’s Mockingjay – “Here’s what we volunteered as tribute” Mayberry tells us enthusiastically before they play it. I see what you did there.
All in all, a great experience. Seeing them live made me appreciate CHVRCHES more. Live, the songs take on a new vibrance and a bigger atmosphere to when they’re compressed on a record, and the lights were equal to or better than anything I would’ve seen in the sky that night.
And I was introduced to Lizzo. That happened.
Under The Tide
The Mother We Share
You Caught the Light
By the Throat