CHVRCHES brings life to the decaying Orpheum Theatre


October 20, 2018 at Orpheum Theater

CHVRCHES has struck a delicate balance between creating a high-quality performance while not trying too hard in the process.

The Orpheum theater is not the best place to see a show. Like many true and proper theaters, it has formal seating, and thus, no GA or standing section (the Orpheum is also not the best place to shoot a show, as I have learned – there was no photo pit, which made my job infinitely harder). In my past experience with shows at similar venues, this lends itself to a stagnant sort of atmosphere which leads to a lack of excitement in the crowd.

Photo by Maggie Van Nortwick for WRBB.

Fortunately, with CHVRCHES, a Scottish synth-pop group who hit it big in 2013 with ‘The Mother We Share’ and ‘Recover’, this was not the case. The crowd was high-energy, up and dancing in their seats the entire show without a care in the world, creating a positive feedback loop – the band and crowd seemed to both feed back and forth off each other’s energy. CHVRCHES, with their A+ banter, live music prowess, and all-around fantastical presence, created an amazing performance that stood out amongst past shows I’ve experienced.

Frontwoman Lauren Mayberry, donning a long, flowy white skirt and glitter covering her cheekbones, has an immensely captivating stage presence. She commands the theater with a unique and powerful voice that shines even brighter live than it does in recordings. This is particularly true in songs which showcase her belt. In the chorus of ‘Grafiti,’ Mayberry’s voice soars high and clear. She conveys a sense of whimsy and intensity with her aura in a way that mimics the colorful synth-pop shimmer of some of the band’s songs, which tend to have an edge of potency.

Photo by Maggie Van Nortwick for WRBB.

Martin Doherty, usually in charge of synthesizers and samplers, got a chance to shine vocally on songs such as ‘Under the Tide’ midway through the show, before trading back with Mayberry for vocals. CHVRCHES switched up the setlist, as this was the second-to-last show on their tour, with one more show the night after in the same venue. They performed a cover of ‘The Downtown Lights’ by the Blue Nile with openers Lo Moon at the start of the encore. Additionally, they gave ‘We Sink’ (performed early in the show) and ‘Never Say Die’ (the closing song of the encore) extended outros, adding a special flair to what were already fan-favorites.

The entire band is tight, musically and amicably. The show contained no shortage of playful quips, and plenty of banter rose up between songs. Topics included ‘why on earth is America so obsessed with Halloween?’ (prompted by the discovery of a miniature pumpkin backstage mid-set) and ‘congrats on your baseball team, but we don’t really care about sports’, among others. No quality was harmed in the making of all this fun, however – their music seems to sound even better live than it does recorded. CHVRCHES has struck a delicate balance between creating a high-quality performance while not trying too hard in the process. They maintain a light, fun, and energetic atmosphere without weighing it down by taking themselves too seriously. They make it seem effortless and easy, creating what was effectively one of the best shows I’ve been to in quite a long while.

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