CHVRCHES live in London: a gothic sci-fi spectacular with Robert Smith on guitar

March 16, O2 Academy Brixton: Joined again by The Cure icon, the Scottish electro-pop trio come of age with wall-to-wall bangers

It’s been exactly two weeks since CHVRCHES and The Cure’s Robert Smith last graced the Brixton Academy stage for the BandLab NME Awards 2022. It was a pretty historic moment: not only was it the first time that the Scottish electro-pop trio and NME Godlike Genius Award alumni had shared a stage together, but it was the first time they’d even met – despite collaborating remotely on our Best Song winner ‘How Not To Drown’.

Our Awards hangover has long since cleared, and we return to Brixton tonight hungry for a little more of that CHVRCHES magic. A spooky cinematic intro beckons into the John-Carpenter-meets-Bladerunner sci-fi dystopia of their latest album ‘Screen Violence’, and frontwoman Lauren Mayberry cuts an iconic image as she arrives all red leather and shoulder pads.

The melodrama is high as the band tear through feminist synth-pop anthem ‘He Said She Said’ and pull some serious power-pop moves for ‘Love Is Dead’ gem ‘Forever’, the almighty ‘Every Open Eye’ single ‘Leave A Trace’ and the widescreen melancholy of ‘California’. “I’m very impressed with this level of enthusiasm for a Wednesday night,” Mayberry tells Brixton. Damn straight – it’s infectious.

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Lauren Mayberry of Chvrches performs live on stage at O2 Academy Brixton on March 16, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Chiaki Nozu/WireImage)
(Photo by Chiaki Nozu/WireImage)

Early adopters of CHVRCHES will remember the admiration for how much they could pull off back then as a three-piece with just vocals, synths and drum machines. The band before you today are a different, more highly-evolved beast. Real human flesh drummer Jonny Scott adds a real depth and oomph to their sound, while Iain Cook and Martin Doherty now dominate the stage much more with axe-wielding abandon. While you can tell that horror-show power ballad ‘Violent Delights’ was written with this live energy in mind, old favourite ‘Science/Visions’ has the doom dialled up, while past singles ‘Bury It’ and ‘Recover’ land with an almighty weight.

At one point Mayberry notes that, other than the BandLab NME Awards 2022, her main memories of Brixton are playing here back in 2014 and coming to see Death Cab For Cutie with an ex-boyfriend. It ended badly, with Mayberry weeping in the girls toilets. “If I cry this time, at least I know it’s at my own gig,” she says.

Well, get your hankies ready. Before returning for an encore with the simmering slow release bop of ‘Asking For A Friend’, a few eager eyes spot a roadie jogging across the stage with a certain goth-father’s iconic guitar. Luckily for Brixton, history repeats and the room erupts for Robert Smith. Again they roll through the aching pop-noir masterpiece ‘How Not To Drown’ and a spritely and euphoric rendition of The Cure’s ‘Just Like Heaven’, as they did at our bash. Again, it was glorious.

When Smith sticks around to lend guitar duties to early CHVRCHES gem ‘The Mother We Share’ and rave-pop beast ‘Clearest Blue’, it all becomes a bit overwheling. We are not worthy.Even without rock royalty in tow, tonight would have been immaculate. CHVRCHES are a band to be treasured.

CHVRCHES played:

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‘He Said She Said’
‘Forever’
‘Leave a Trace’
‘California’
‘Violent Delights’
‘Science/Visions’
‘Good Girls’
‘Bury It’
‘Miracle’
‘Night Sky’
‘Final Girl’
‘Recover’
‘Never Say Die’
Encore:
‘Asking for a Friend’
‘How Not to Drown’ (with Robert Smith)
‘Just Like Heaven’ (with Robert Smith)
‘The Mother We Share’ (with Robert Smith)
‘Clearest Blue’ (with Robert Smith)

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