Spritely Lauren Mayberry bounds onto the stage at Rams Head Live! on Sunday night, and she looks as buoyant as her music sounds.
As Lauren dashes from side to side of the stage, she seems like she has an urgent message to deliver to the very full house. And the message is a good one! It’s like Lauren has discovered a truth about being yourself, and about being happy, and she is bursting to the edges of the stage to share that message.
Lauren and her bandmates in Chvrches open the show with “Never Ending Circles,” a song about finding freedom through escaping cycles from Chvrches’ album, Every Open Eye, their self-produced second record released last year via Virgin EMI Records and Goodbye Records.
Chvrches carry forward the buoyant, uplifting tone of their show with excellent songs from the new album like “Make Them Gold” and “Empty Threat.” On the first of those songs, Lauren sings of doing your best and the second approaches the idea that sometimes we have to take back our words and make amends with those friends with whom we are better off when we are by their side.
The lyrical optimism is reinforced by some fine synthesizer work from the Glaswegian trio, as Iain Cook and Martin Doherty dazzle with some truly soaring synths. Iain occasionally takes up guitar, and Martin occasionally lends vocals, expanding the sound of Chvrches’ synthpop. Together, the three really continue to blaze a trail that was marked by some of my favorite bands in the ’80s like a soulful Bronski Beat or a latter-day Eurythmics.
While contemplating Chvrches influences can be fun, the band are uniquely themselves. Lauren’s Scottish lilt is absolutely addictive, and it’s remarkable to see how she has grown as a performer since the band first appeared with “The Mother We Share” roughly four years ago. She’s matured into a confident dynamo like a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis — and for me, her glam eye makeup reinforces the idea of a butterfly.
The gents are also great performers, and Martin has an opportunity to shine as frontman during the song “High Enough to Carry You Over,” which Chvrches debuted live only a few months ago. The song has a similar sound to “Never Ending Circles” with rising synth crescendos and crashes. Its lyrics reference the title of the album, which lacks a true title track, with the repeated words “open your eyes.” He sounds great too if a bit remorseful on the refrain — “And I never would’ve given you up,” which you might mistake for the song’s title given its emphasis!
Songs from the band’s sophomore album continue to dominate the set, as Chvrches wind down their main set with “Leave a Trace” and the excellent “Clearest Blue” — songs that evoke mutual understanding and finding a way to a better day.
The trio close their encore with “Mother,” and the audience sings along to every word with a familiar warmth. The audience singalong actually constitutes the most pleasant rendition of the song that I’ve ever heard as everyone’s affection for the band becomes palpable. Everyone departs feeling we have indeed shared of ourselves.
Chvrches hit Rams Head Live as a series of dates leading up to the Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Del., where they perform on Saturday. The band has a few dates leading up to Firefly, including a show tonight in Charleston. They leave for Europe after Firefly, but they return for a smattering of US dates beginning in September. If you’ve never seen them, go do so for a feel-good experience that will leave you dancing for days. If you’ve seen them previously, it’s a fantastic time to experience how the band has grown as performers. They are fantastic! I look forward to seeing them again some day soon.
Here are quite a few pictures of Chvrches performing at Rams Head Live in Baltimore on Sunday, June 12.