CHVRCHES & Robert Smith at the BandLab NME Awards 2022: a world-first meeting of minds

March 2, The O2 Brixton Academy: after collaborating on ‘Screen Violence’, the electro-poppers link up with The Cure’s frontman live for the very first time

When the spotlights come up on on Robert Smith, the crowd give a roar that shudders the walls. A former Godlike genius and legendary frontman of goth kings The Cure teaming up with Glasgow’s finest synth-poppers… sounds epic, right? When CHVRCHES first confirmed the collab of dreams with Robert Smith for their fourth album ‘Screen Violence’, fans expecting a masterful blend of towering euphoria and thumping darkness were not disappointed by ‘How Not To Drown’.

Written during a period of loneliness and isolation for CHVRCHES (“these lyrics are about a time when I just wanted to disappear, and the only time I ever thought about quitting the band,” vocalist Lauren Mayberry revealed later in the night) ‘How Not To Drown’ unearths a precious glimmer of hope in a gaping pit of desolation – the secret power of a great song.

Following widespread disruption to regular touring and recording, tonight isn’t just the first time that Smith and have performed live together – it’s actually their first time meeting in person, full stop. And to mark their long-overdue reunion, they kick things off with ‘Asking For A Friend’ – the wide-screen opener of ‘Screen Violence. Drenched in cyan lights and lit by garish pink neon, Mayberry steps back to take it all in after that hulking great chorus hits, as Martin Doherty steps forward to take in the applause.

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CHVRCHES on the BandLab NME Awards 2022 red carpet
Martin Doherty, Lauren Mayberry and Iain Cook of CHVRCHES arrive at the BandLab NME Awards 2022 at the O2 Academy Brixton. Credit: David M. Benett/Getty Images

Next, it’s swiftly onto ‘How Not To Drown’ – the mammoth collaboration which won Smith and Chvrches a well-deserved gong for Best Song By A UK Artist earlier this evening. Handed a coverted middle finger trophy Savages vocalist and in-demand collaborator Jehnny Beth, vocalist Lauren Mayberry said: “Thanks to Robert [Smith] for doing the song with us, and thanks to everyone who supported the song, and supported the album. The world is a massive fire at the moment, so it’s nice to just think about tunes.”

Realised on stage, with all creative minds present and correct, it’s completely magical (Drag Race star Bimini certain seems to think so, they’re headbanging away) and spirals right up to the roof with a squalling, Robert Smith guitar solo special.

Before departing back to the mayhem of the tables, however, our new favourite supergroup have one more trick up their sleeves – “I’m very sure that you’ll know it,” grins Lauren Mayberry, “fingers crossed.” What follows is a shimmering reimagining of The Cure’s ‘Just Like Heaven’ – it’s a real ‘pinch yourself’ moment and a truly special collaboration.

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