Ciarán Hodgers reviews Chvrches and Mansionair at the Birmingham O2 Academy

By November 28, 2015


ChurchesNestled between the King and Queen of PDA and a guy stood so close I thought he was going to buy me breakfast, I was able to catch glimpses of Chvrches fill Birmingham’s O2 Arena with their rampant, catchy electropop. The gig was opened well by Mansionair from Sydney, who brought a varied set of loud and delicate music I’m looking forward to hearing cleanly when its released.

Opening with ‘Never Ending Circles’ was a great way to kick the mood up. Front woman Lauren Mayberry’s stage presence was on point throughout the gig, quoting fears of being over-rehearsed at this late stage in the tour, but it seemed perfectly authentic to me – not over-rehearsed quite yet. Playing music from their new album, Every Open Eye, with which the tour shares its name, and from their 2013 hit The Bones of What You Believe, you could tell that the band have been making a concerted but subtle effort to think about their audience more.

Personal highlights were new singles ‘Empty Threat’, ‘Bury It’ and ‘We Sink’. The music off the new record opens up live and has space to show its complexities and versatility that you just can’t get in headphones or speakers. It was excellently illustrated by some dynamic on-screen visuals that encouraged an intense experience. The overall flavour is more rhythmic and more club than before.

As much as I adore The Bones of What You Believe, tracks from Every Open Eye tended to carry the older songs throughout the night but I think this reveals their progression and exploration of sound palette rather than a weakness.

Their debut was, and still is, a great record but they are getting more confident with their style certainly, and you can hear it. Keeping ‘Leave A Trace’ till the closing track, and then a hot pink flurry of expected energy was released, and the relatively sure-footed audience were jumping and fist-pumping the air.

The lyrics are more of an earworm than before. They’re ambiguous at times and consistently catchy, matched with a unique shade of pop so heavily steeped in electro that calling it pop seems misread. This is keenly reflected in the diversity of the audiences – teenagers satiating a pop fix and some alternative looking folk appreciating the electronic side of things as well as an extended range of ages.

An encore of ‘Afterglow’ and ‘The Mother We Share’ was the right ending, the former providing a nice change of pace building to the latter. I mean, you simply couldn’t not play that song.

I look forward to hearing what they bring out after Every Open Eye to see how they develop the sound they’re seemingly deconstructing. This record is proof that they’re capable of versatility and challenging themselves, and until then this album will keep me busy.