When CHVRCHES began their set at Bluesfest on July 15th, it was that perfect time of day when the sun is finally starting to go down and you know that by the time the show’s over, night will have crept in.
There’s definitely a special excitement that comes from watching one of your favourite bands perform live for the very first time, but you also have to hope that they can live up to all your wild expectations. I should start off this review with the disclaimer that CHVRCHES are one of my favourite bands, and this was the show I’d been looking forward to more than any other at Bluesfest. For one hour and 15 minutes on Wednesday night, not only did they live up to the wild expectations of myself and the excited fans around me, but they even went beyond, playing three never-before-heard songs from their mystery upcoming album – the following day, they announced that it will be called Every Open Eye and released on September 25th.
CHVRCHES are a three-piece synth pop band from Scotland, made up of Lauren Mayberry, Iain Cook, and Martin Doherty. Their 2013 debut album, The Bones of What You Believe, proved them experts in delivering polished electro-pop that mixes sleek synth beats and sharp, poetic lyricism for a result that can be just as dark as it is fun to dance to. Dressed head-to-toe in black for their Bluesfest set, there was a certain gothic vibe to their styling, which Mayberry remarked at one point maybe wasn’t the best fit for the hot, sunny day.
The lead singer of the trio, Mayberry is strikingly petite, especially up close in person, but her high, haunting vocals were strong and commanding in front of the crowd, whether she was coercing on songs like “Lies,” singing “I can sell you lies, you can’t get enough,” or promising revenge on those who wronged her in “Gun.” She was the clear focal point of most of the show, dancing and headbanging through the entire set, and at one point whipping her mic cord around while the stage flashed with strobe lights during “Science/Visions.”
Cook and Doherty performed backing vocals, flanking her at the sides of the stage on synthesizers, with Cook occasionally playing guitar and bass as well, and Doherty switching with Mayberry to take over the main vocals on “Under the Tide.” He delivered a high energy, fun performance that got the crowd jumping as he danced frantically back and forth across the stage.
It was the kind of show that seemed to catch the interest of festival goers who might not have been familiar with the band beforehand, drawing a sizeable crowd to the Claridge Stage as it went on, but it was also a treat for longtime fans, who got the surprise of hearing brand new tracks performed for the very first time. The show opened with the new song “Clearest Blue,” and also featured “Make Them Gold,” and “Leave a Trace,” which was officially released Thursday as the first single from Every Open Eye.
At the show, Mayberry told the crowd that since the band had been hard at work on the new album, this was their first show in eight months.
It was a strong performance, encompassing all their hits from the first album while blending in sneak peeks from the new one.
It certainly felt special that they would end up here in Ottawa for such a show.
You can pre-order Every Open Eye here. Anyone who preorders the album will receive the single ‘Leave a Trace’ instantly.