It’s “Saturday night in the toon” and hometown heroes Chvrches were looking forward to letting their hair down in familiar surroundings in the company of fans where nothing was lost in translation, where they could make their feelings about Brexit known with four-letter brevity, stake their claim as global ambassadors for the “Here we f***ing go” chant and where even frontwoman Lauren Mayberry’s slight neurosis about the quality of her arena stage banter was automatically understood as natural Scottish self-deprecation. Because what’s a bit of awkwardness among friends, right?
Chvrches, Hydro, Glasgow ***
These little humanising glimpses contrasted with their tooled-up stage show, where their somewhat reedy recordings were transformed into a thundering electro extravaganza, with the band dwarfed in front of a huge bank of lights, twin attack keyboard players Iain Cook and Martin Docherty now considerably bolstered by drummer Jonny Scott and Mayberry emerging as a 21st-century Hazel O’Connor with her theatrical make-up and strong, angular poses.
Often the trick in arenas is not to fall prey to the fallacy that everything has to be turned up to fill the space but, in Chvrches’ case, the louder the reverberation’ the more impactful the sound and the greater the penetration of the already undeniably strong pop hooklines of opening numbers Get Out and Bury It. The latter, in particular, was a robust calling card with chunky industrial synths backing lyrics which reach that bit beyond standard relationship angst fare.
Their entire set fell into the catch-all category of electro-pop, but with enough dynamic twists to avoid bleeding into one long synth pop belter, from the smart mix of 21st-century bass drops and 80s pomp in Miracle to the heavier tribal synth rock of Science/Visions, from the techno pulse of We Sink to the anthemic pop wash of Graffiti, which would not sound out of place among the gauche romanticism of a Taylor Swift set.
Docherty stepped forward for his turn to front the moody gothic trance of God’s Plan and the energising current of Under the Tide, while making it clear that he and the band don’t take the home support for granted. Mayberry then took a well-earned break from working the length of the stage to deliver luminous ballad Really Gone, characterised as “legit sad” (as opposed to “upbeat sad”), before reverting to aerobic air-punching during the epic, trancey dance of Clearest Blue and the whirling dervish finish of Never Say Die. - Fiona Shepherd