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Saturday, March 8, 2014

Live Review: CHVRCHES, O2 Academy, Newcastle (07/03/2014)

Housing as it does some of the finest pop songs in recent memory, CHVRCHES' LP The Bones of What You Believe was one I had no problem falling for, even if I held it to be a somewhat hit-and-miss affair. That, however, is a stance I've had to revise after witnessing their belated Newcastle debut; an all too brief hour of soaring hooks and bulging electronics which served not only to confirm the album's strength but also to vindicate every last ounce of hyperbole to which the Glaswegians have been subjected. 

During their meteoric rise, the trio also found time to launch their own label, Goodbye Records, and predictably enough it was SOAK, their first signing, who was asked to open the packed-out O2 Academy. A lone acoustic troubadour, Bridie Monds-Watson was always facing a battle against punters filing in and congregating at the bars, yet the 17-year-old overcame an obvious bout of shyness and winded up acquitting herself rather well. Certainly there was much to savour in the warmth and captivating charm of her songs, and although their intimacy was compromised in such a big room you got the impression that many early birds left with their heads turned. 

While her performance was understated in the extreme, CHVRCHES' proved to be anything but. That much was clear as soon Lauren Mayberry, Iain Cook and Martin Doherty took to the stage, opening fire with four storming synthpop bangers ('We Sink,' 'Lies,' 'Lungs' and 'Gun') in quick succession. At that point, I was concerned they'd blown too many of their big-hitters too early, but what I hadn't counted on were less heralded numbers such as 'Under the Tide' and 'Tether' translating with equal verve. The former was, in fact, something of an unlikely standout, with regular synth player Doherty exchanging roles with frontwoman Mayberry and bringing to it his own infectious jack-in-the-box energy. Granted it was slightly over the top, and his singing voice pales compared to that of their pocket-sized star, but if nothing else it proved they're far from the one-woman sensation for which they're occasionally mistaken. 

Indeed, with a second album and a fleshed out set to play with, you sense that that stock could go through the roof by the time of their next UK jaunt - and I for one wouldn't be at all surprised if it were to take in bigger venues. Their music demands it, and on tonight's evidence so to do their performances.

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CHVRCHES
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SOAK
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