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Chvrches kick off North American tour at SDSU

Spencer White

Spencer White

by Spencer White, Staff Writer

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Scottish electropop act Chvrches recently kicked off the tour in support of their third album, “Love is Dead,” but used their trademark energy and stage presence to highlight their entire discography.

Chvrches played the first show of their North American tour at the CalCoast Credit Union Open Air Theater at San Diego State on Sept. 20. This show was the first time the band had played San Diego in two years, since they made a stop at the Observatory in North Park in between the two Coachella weekends in 2016.

The trio, consisting of frontwoman Lauren Mayberry and multi-instrumentalists Iain Cook and Martin Doherty, put out their latest effort in May of this year. It followed 2015’s “Every Open Eye” and 2013’s “The Bones of What You Believe,” and this time around the band teamed up with Grammy-winning producer Greg Kurstin, who’s previously collaborated with high-profile artists like Adele, Kelly Clarkson and Pink.

Recruiting Kurstin marks the first time in the band’s five-year career that they sought outside production, having self-produced their first two records. Chvrches also consulted with Eurythmics’ David Stewart and The National’s Matt Berninger during the production of “Love is Dead,” the latter providing guest vocals on the single, “My Enemy.”

Reaching out to this wide-ranging array of artists during the creation of this album reflects the sprawling sound the band was aiming for this cycle, while still staying true to their novel brand of festival-ready synths layered under captivating, emotional lyrics.

Spencer White
Mayberry danced around the stage during the exhilarating performance.

Opening for the “Love is Dead” tour was indie rock band Lo Moon, whose two guitarists, Matt Lowell and Samuel Stewart, traded off distorted riffs and heavy synth chords that warmed up the stage for Chvrches. The Los Angeles band drowned the audience in an ocean of noise with songs from their self-titled album that came out this year. The band especially came to life with the performance of their single, “Loveless.”

For Chvrches, the setlist skewed slightly toward their recent release, but included tracks from throughout their career. The stage design was akin to the “Love is Dead” album art, and featured bright, colorful strobe lights to match the aesthetic.

They made sure to highlight some “Bones of What You Believe” tracks, since they were celebrating the record’s five-year anniversary. Their critically-acclaimed debut album established their uniqueness as a synth-pop act with an affinity for evocative lyricism in an EDM-ruled era.

After starting the show off strong with “Love is Dead’s” lead single, “Get Out,” they went into “Gun,” a favorite from their debut. “Get Out” started with a flurry of strobe lights, and Mayberry clapping along with the track, starting off the show with a bang.

So do you want to turn it around? And do you want to show me how?” Mayberry sang to the crowd, the lyrics evoking a past relationship in which both members were working on changing for each other.

“Gun” features a catchy synth chord as well as a chorus with lyrics like, “Take a good swing at me / And everything is even / So finally, we agree / No place for promises here,” that highlight a relationship where the two have perhaps swung on each other to the point where they can no longer trust each other.

The show also featured the live debut of a couple songs from the new album, including “Deliverance” and “Really Gone.” Mayberry humorously admitted to the audience that she had a hard time remembering the lyrics to some of these songs.  

“It’s funny, I know the words to every season of ‘Parks and Rec,’ but I can’t seem to memorize my own lyrics,” she said.

Mayberry bounced around the stage while singing the band’s heartfelt lyrics.  

“This next song is sad but at least it’s uplifting,” Mayberry said as the band started the song “Leave a Trace.”

I know I need to feel relief,” Mayberry sang. “And I know you’ll never fold / But I believe nothing that I’m told / And I know I need to feel relief.”

The band’s crunching synths and relentless drum work made it hard for any fan in attendance not to dance, and the energy of the band felt like a ‘90s rave atmosphere.

Looking around at the audience, seeing fans absolutely lost in the music, drenched in feelings of heartbreak, loss and a longing for something to soothe the heart, the songs resonated with the audience members in a way that most bands could only dream of.

Chvrches ended the night with fan favorites: “The Mother We Share” from their debut album, and “Never Say Die” from “Love is Dead.”

On “Never Say Die” Mayberry kept on repeating the titular lines of the song, before she left the stage with the music riding out until the house lights came on and the show reached its conclusion. It was clear that Chvrches aren’t going anywhere.

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