Chvrches Rule Over The Royal Albert Hall
There are plenty of remarkable things about Chvrches. The Glasgow trio have conquered hearts and minds on both sides of the Atlantic without surrendering their DIY ethos, they’ve developed their live shows into something genuinely celebratory, and in second album ‘Open Every Eye’, bettered their debut in almost every respect.
Yet tonight, as they visit London’s legendary Royal Albert Hall (as part of the venue’s Albert Sessions initiative), it’s clear that they’ve achieved something just as significant. Perhaps it’s the raw emotion captured within their songs, perhaps the combination of pop nous and more experimental leanings: whatever the reason, they’ve been able to convert listeners from across the traditional pop tribes and beyond. There’s no such thing as a ‘typical Chvrches fan’ among the thousands filing in this evening, and that’s well worth celebrating.
Before the three-piece arrive, it’s ‘80s electro-pop revivalist Shura’s turn to take the stage. Aleksandra Denton’s hushed, ethereal songs of yearning and loss mightn’t be the most obvious fit for the ‘Hall – some of the intimacy getting lost in translation – but she and her band gradually win over the audience regardless. With a debut album on the horizon, they could be inescapable before the year is out.
Of course, Chvrches are already there. After months of solid international touring they don’t seem at all fazed, exploding into life with ‘Never Ending Circles’. Vocalist Lauren Mayberry strides – and occasionally spins – across the stage with the assurance that she and her bandmates truly belong there, delivering soaring, note-perfect renditions of ‘Make Them Gold’ and ‘Empty Threat’. There’s a hair-raising moment as she threatens to collide with the lighting rig, but otherwise the trio are resolutely on point. Synth/bass mastermind Iain Cook even manages to make a NSFW quip out of it, something we’re not accustomed to in these plush confines.
Martin Doherty takes centre-stage for ‘High Enough To Carry You Over’, in what becomes one of the performance’s surprise highlights. A smattering of old tracks serves to remind of us of their roots, with ‘Gun’ and a huge ‘Recover’ getting the front rows off of their feet, but it’s actually ‘Clearest Blue’ (of ‘Open Every Eye’) that hits home the hardest – the crowd singing and moving in near-unison. After a brief departure they return for ‘Afterglow’, and the hall is illuminated with phone lights and lighters, in what feels like a truly special moment.
‘The Mother We Share’ rounds things off, with both Lauren and the audience in fine voice. For many acts this would be a once in a lifetime experience – but given everything we’ve seen tonight, and over the past couple of years, really, you really wouldn’t bet against them making a return in the future. Just another one to tick off the bucket list.