CHVRCHES + SOAK, The Institute, Birmingham 10/03/14


CHVRCHES
On the back of that rare beast – a critically-heralded and commercially successful debut album – Glasgow trio CHVRCHES bring a confident and noisy headline show to Birmingham on their biggest tour to date.

SOAK
The evening begins with SOAK, a.k.a Bridie Monds-Watson, recently signed by CHVRCHES to their own label, Goodbye Records. Among the din of a slowly filling sold-out venue, the 17 year-old plays surprisingly assured acoustics and matches it with a voice both raw with soulful. The SOAK moniker came about as a mixture of soul and folk, and that’s a fair assessment of where she sits.

CHVRCHES
Which is a million miles from where CHVRCHES are, as they burst out of the blocks with synthpop banger ‘We Sink’. From the off, the lights are hypnotic, the synths soar, the beats are bone-rattling and the bass booms enough to vibrate your fillings. ‘Lies’, ‘Lungs’, ‘Gun’ and ‘Night Sky’ all follow with barely a breath taken.
Everything great about the album is turned up and electrified on stage, but among all the noise from Iain Cook and Martin Doherty on the flanks, Lauren Mayberry’s vocals are never lost, with her subtly imposing and piercing voice at the heart of an intense performance. Playing every song from said album, for just under an hour they’re relentless, with Mayberry commenting that the audience have come for music, not “shit-chat”.

CHVRCHES
And as the set continues with ‘Strong Hand’, ‘Science/Visions’ and ‘Recover’, it soon becomes apparent that they don’t have any songs that aren’t huge. Even slow starters like ‘Tether’ soon grow into climactic rave anthems. For ‘Under The Tide’, Doherty comes out from behind his equipment to deliver lead vocals. His high energy performance, followed by a mass singalong for ‘The Mother We Share’ ensure the set ends as potently as it began.
The only song even approaching a “slow number” is the brooding encore number ‘You Caught The Light’, when Doherty and Mayberry swap again, before they finally relent, closing with ‘By The Throat’, an adequate description of how they’ve held the audience from the off.
If actual churches can be this intense, sign me up.
Photographs by Katy Smith.