“There’s cameras here so if you’ve lost anyone wave on the big screen,” advises singer Lauren Mayberry midway through Chvrches’ Leeds set. “I was worried in case anyone’s mum thought they’d washed away.”
Just before the Glasgow electro-poppers take to the main stage, the heavens spectacularly open, leaving faithful fans wetter than Jack Laugher, and a more spartan crowd than you might expect the trio to usually attract. Not that they’re complaining. “You guys are always completely up for it even when you’re drenched and wearing ponchos,” she adds defiantly, practically flicking a V sign at Mother Nature.
As the debate rages over the depressing paucity of female artists at Leeds/Reading – and festivals in general – Festival Republic boss Melvin Benn recently predicted that Chvrches were future headliners, adding that Mayberry is “amazing – she just commands a stage.” High praise – but do they live up to it? Opening with ‘Never Ending Circles’, there’s no doubt they’ve got the tunes, with their ‘80s-influenced chrome-plated pop finding the sweet spot between being a more mainstream The Knife and a more alternative Carly Rae Jepsen. Tonight represents the final UK show touring second album ‘Every Open Eye’ (“It’s distressing for us,” pantos Mayberry), so they own the penultimate slot with slick ease. Having long ago shed her nervy, static frontwoman L-plates, Mayberry is a compelling presence, ricocheting around the stage like a Catherine Wheel that’s come off the fence.
As ever, synth-stabber Martin Doherty gets his moment in the spotlight, reminding us that Chvrches Is The Name Of A Band, by assuming frontman duties on ‘Under The Tide’. His uninhibited dancing entertainingly makes it look as if rhythm itself has taken out a restraining order against him. As they carpet-bomb their set with pristine hits that deftly merge melancholia with euphoria – ‘Leave A Trace’, ‘Clearest Blue’ ‘Recover’ – you feel they deserve a bigger crowd than the weather has permitted. After finishing with a monstrous ‘The Mother We Share’, Mayberry comments ‘See you with album three”. Will they one day top the bill as head honcho Benn foresees? Even against the elements, on the evidence tonight, don’t bet against the house.