MANHATTAN, NY—When I bought my ticket for CHVRCHES, I didn’t really know much about them. Aside from loosely following some online coverage of the band and lead vocalist Lauren Mayberry’s sexism op-ed, I was more or less in the dark about the group. A number of factors played into me actually going to this show: Friends who already had tickets, a reasonable price on StubHub, and the band’s bread and butter track “Recover.” In preparation for the concert, I gave their 2013 album, The Bones Of What You Believe, about three full listens, and became instantly hooked.
The band had a show earlier in the day, so instead of beginning at eight like the other two shows at Terminal 5, the doors for this one didn’t even open until 10. I got to the venue early and had a good spot pretty close to the stage, but the amount of people pushing to the front was exponentially worse than any other show I’ve attended, and by the time it started, I had already faded well back.
One thing truly wonderful about the show was its punctuality, I’m sure due to its already late starting time. The Range, the opening act, took the stage exactly at 11 for a 45-minute set. I was fairly neutral toward him; his music places heavy emphasis on bass and beat, but it is chill and relaxed, not raucous and off the wall like such terminology would suggest. I found his music easy to groove out to, but not engaging enough to be fully enveloping.
CHVRCHES took the stage promptly at 12:15. Their setlist, which began with “We Sink” and “Lies,” was essentially the 12 tracks that comprise The Bones Of What You Believe, along with bonus song “Strong Hand.” The great lighting, which included the band’s signature LED chevrons, made the whole show something to see as well as hear, and every song, from the trance-y “Science/Visions” to the uplifting “Under The Tide,” was something to get lost in.
The thing about CHVRCHES is that while they feature all of the beats and flashing lights to create a rave-like atmosphere, they bring a live band aesthetic (due in part to songs like “Tether,” or “the guitar song,” as Mayberry refers to it) that makes their show a true performance in the old sense of the word. If not for the three people on stage making use of a variety of synths, guitars, and basses, my parents would surely mock me for paying to see someone play “computerized garbage.” That’s what’s so great about seeing the band live: They marry so well the energy of an electronic dance concert with the pure people-doing-things of a rock performance.
I didn’t know CHVRCHES long enough before seeing them to put them on my must-see live list, but I’m glad that I won’t have to now that I’ve had the experience. For anyone else that keeps such a list, I would suggest putting them on it. Maybe bump them closer to the top, too.