Just under a year ago, East India Youth hopped on stage at the Laneway showcase at SXSW. It was mid afternoon, brutally hot, a scattering of people occupied the tiny outdoor stage. He was fully suited up, surrounded by laptops and keyboards, a bass slung from his shoulder. It’s nice to see that a year later, he’s still wearing the exact same suit – although this time the crowd is a little bigger. He’s only gotten better: Looking For Someone was built up painstakingly piece-by-piece, until blooming into a colossal wall of sound, and Hearts That Never mined a ferocious techno core.
Lauren Mayberry’s power doesn’t rest in her diminutive frame, which she nevertheless throws around the stage with abandon, but in the absolute ruthlessness of her self-assurance. From the moment she appeared, a dark silhouette against blinding light, fist raised in defiance, she was in complete control.
It doesn’t come as a surprise that Chvrches are an incredibly tight live band – after all, this was the band that played an exhaustive 350 shows in two years after the release of The Bones Of What We Believe. Tonight at the Enmore, there’s no hint of an awkward pause, no beat or note out of place. Where once Mayberry would have just stood and delivered (“I used to just stand still and hope the ground would swallow me,” she quips), she now dominates; she’s a pop star, pulling power stances at every turn, whipping her hair between her knees as she wrenches the high notes from her throat (Bury It).
Only in a couple of instances does she get lost: in the whiplash of light and synth in Keep You On My Side, where her vocals are nearly swallowed whole, but the missteps are few. Tracks that on record teeter on the brink of cheesiness (‘Make Them Gold’) become cathartic anthems in the live setting. There’s a lot of catharsis (the excellent closer Clearest Blue, which winds itself up until imploding in a million synth splinters), and a lot of kiss off (when Mayberry sings “I’ll be a gun, and it’s you I’ll come for” on ‘Gun’, it’s as triumphant as it was three years ago), and power (the menacing “Science/Visions”, with its accompanying light show, is a set highlight), and some more power (Martin Doherty’s furious turn in Under The Tide). By the time Recover rolls around, Mayberry’s hair is plastered by sweat to her face as she screams “I’ll give you one more chance”, but it’s the double hit of Leave A Trace and The Mother We Share that finishes the night on a moment of transcendent pop euphoria.
Gallery: Chvrches / Pics by Ash Mar