“Our gear didn’t get here until 8:30 tonight,” Lauren Mayberry – member of Scottish synth-pop band Chvrches – said during their Splendour sideshow in Melbourne this Monday night. “I’m just going to talk less and we’ll cram in as much as we can before the curfew.”
Mayberry stalked, ran, skipped and twirled from one side of the stage to the other as she sang, weaving in and out between bandmates Iain Cook, Martin Doherty and Jonny Scott tethered to synths and drums. She moved with the unassuming confidence of someone dancing in their living room, only enhancing the intimacy of her lyrics.
“We’re looking for angels in the darkest of skies,” she sang out over the audience during “Miracle” from their latest release Love is Dead. The bass dropped in and out, deep and loud enough to knock stray confetti from the rigging above, and she fell back to spin in the centre of her bandmates. Mayberry’s black tutu fanning outwards and cheeks glinting as the lights hit glitter, I found myself wondering what it must be to see from her eyes at that moment.
Against all odds, the band and staff at the arena had pulled off what could have been a calamitous Monday night. The truck with all of Chvrches’ production broke down somewhere between Sydney and Melbourne earlier that day. Fans were left waiting in the fluorescent purgatory of the outer gates for an hour longer than expected, catching snatches of song and the soft thuds of a soundcheck.
Wafia was regrettably cancelled as opener last minute amid fears of the night running too late, leaving main support Mansionair to open.
“The show must go on and we’re happy to be here,” lead singer Jack Froggatt said, before launching into a brief opening set. The three-piece belted out layered synths and drums, lyrics undulating with the instrumentation in great emotional peaks and troughs. It’s a big ask for a band to energise thousands of people that had just spent a decent stretch of time in a well-lit hallway, but Mansionair rose to the occasion admirably.
“I’m just nervous because I can’t get very good Wi-Fi in here,” someone joked in the line as we waited. On the Facebook event page, people started posting GIFs of cats opening doors. Everyone was so polite about the whole thing. I can’t help but think it’s testament to the kind of fanbase Chvrches have always actively endorsed. Way back in 2013, Mayberry penned a Guardian op-ed titled ‘I will not accept online misogyny’ and since then, the band have always had a strong political presence within the media.
Chvrches rounded off the night with an encore of “The Mother We Share” from their debut album and “Never Say Die” from this year’s release. While the production of their songs have become more intricate and textured, they haven’t lost the bands initial integrity, which first propelled them to international heights.
Mayberry sang unamplified into the crowd with her arms outstretched for the last lines of “Never Say Die”. The crowd chanted the same simple question with her, whipped and rattled into the joyous frenzy of the band’s own design, “Didn’t you say that? Didn’t you say that?”
The crowd and band roared to a crescendo as Mayberry left the stage, leaving these simple lyrics to coalesce a room packed with ecstatic and contented strangers.
This was the final date of the band’s Australian tour. Photo by John Goodridge.