It’s been said that absence makes the heart grow fonder. Logic would dictate, then, that a Sydney audience would not be particularly fond of seeing CHVRCHES play a headlining show this evening – after all, they literally played Sydney last week, kicking off 2019 as a part of Field Day. Even casting one’s mind back to the last time the band were in Australia, you only have to go as far back as a measly six months. Seeing CHVRCHES again after all that would just be gilding the lily, no? As it turns out, that’s where you’d be wrong – tonight was all about defying said logic and showing that there is plenty left in the tank as far as the Glasgow natives are concerned.
Tonight, the band make their debut performance within the confines of the Sydney Opera House – a task the trio do not take lightly. They emerge from the wings with purpose and intent, launching forth fearlessly into three of their biggest hits in quick succession: “Get Out,” “Bury It” and “Gun.” A few songs later, they offer up “Graffiti,” which ends up letting the floodgates open and spurring the audience to their feet. We’ll primarily stay there for the rest of the night too, which feels only fitting given the type of act we’re here to see.
As a live band, CHVRCHES are truly the sum of their parts – each member contributes in terms of both instrumental prowess and irrepressible stage presence. Vocalist Lauren Mayberry quite literally twirls through the synth-laden rhythms and the emphasised big beats, exuding confidence as she delivers every last sugary pop hook. The beats, by the way, are care of live drummer Jonny Scott, who has promptly made his presence felt in his short time as part of CHVRCHES’ live show. The two are pillared on either side by Martin Doherty and Iain Cook, who writhe and throw themselves into the many layers each track has to offer from behind their respective workstations. Occasionally, both get the chance to emerge from behind their keyboards. Cook prowls stage right with bass guitar in tow, while Doherty performs his two lead vocal numbers back to back in “God’s Plan” (not to be confused with the Drake number of the same name) and the joy fantastic of “Under the Tide,” which comes about as close to an outdoor festival vibe as one can attain within these walls.
One of the key factors in what makes our headliners a great band is their emphasis on the human touch – playing music that is often computerised and processed, but doing so while conveying genuine emotion and feeling simultaneously. This, too, translates into how their live shows go down – they’re all business when the songs themselves are taking place, but they are also prone to goofing off and cracking jokes with one another between them. It’s a gentle reminder that no matter how big a band gets, at their core should always come a group of people that are united by common bonds and friendship.
When CHVRCHES first came to Australia almost five years ago exactly, playing Laneway Festival, one recalled a young band rigidly in their stage positions as they cautiously navigated through their performance. As Mayberry commands an audience sing-along during the finale of “Never Say Die” tonight, running from side to side of the stage to project to different parts of the room, one gets a true sense of perspective. Yes, they’re here a lot. By that same token, however, tonight makes one thing indubitably clear: They deserve to be here.
Review – David James Young.
Photo – Dan Boud.