Despite vocalist Lauren Mayberry once again being somewhat ill, Glaswegian synth-pop outfit Chvrches delivered a strong performance at The Van Buren April 22.
Flashback to three years ago, around the same time of year, when also on the heels of a weekend at Coachella Mayberry fell ill and had to suddenly end a Tempe show early.
Though the group made up for it by returning later that year and honoring tickets from the initial date, Mayberry still saw fit the evening of April 22 to crack jokes at her previous misfortune.
“We are woodland creatures,” the Scottish singer joked, noting she always manages to fall ill when she travels to Coachella and desert-like environments.
And that banter between her, bandmates Iain Cook and Martin Doherty, and the audience carried throughout the sold-out performance – something fans have long come to expect from Chvrches shows.
Moments earlier a fan had requested the band perform its rendition of Kendrick Lamar’s “Love,” which it had previously covered live for Australian radio station triple j’s Like a Version series.
Doherty said they couldn’t remember it, and joked that they barely even pulled it off the first time.
Although Chvrches didn’t attempt any covers, what did comprise the band’s long-awaited return to the Valley were an array of songs spanning its three LPs. But one could never truly pinpoint the band’s direction, as much of the set bounced from album to album, never lingering on any specific era of the band’s career for an extended duration.
After the lights initially dimmed, followed by a bass drop, flashing lights and shimmering synths topped with ethereal vocal samples, the band took to the stage and kicked off with the uber-catchy “Love is Dead” single “Get Out.”
Traversing back another album, the group revisited 2015’s “Every Open Eye” for “Bury It.”
Then came “We Sink,” from the band’s 2013 debut album, “The Bones of What You Believe,” which ended with Mayberry atop the drum rig while an extended ambient outro emanated from the speakers.
Speaking of drums, that was something new to Phoenix audiences, as last time Chvrches played the Valley touring drummer Jonny Scott had not yet been recruited. And it could be said that Scott’s inclusion added a bit of an extra punch to the group’s performance.
As for Doherty, he also got some time to shine. During a mid-set break, he and Mayberry switched positions – her taking control of his sampler and him front and center – for several songs.
It was then the band performed two of its Doherty-led songs: “God’s Plan” and “Under the Tide.”
Though the set spanned a good deal of the band’s three studio albums thus far, “Love is Dead” was clearly a focus. After all, it is the group’s most recent project.
Throughout the set, plenty of newer songs were performed, like “Graffiti,” “Miracle,” “Deliverance” and “Forever,” the latter of which allowed Cook his own chance to show off on guitar.
During a short breather after the latter two songs, the band returned to its comedy career. Mayberry wound up on the subject of Jon Bon Jovi. Downplaying her stage presence, she said she can’t compare to Bon Jovi as a performer. But after she joked about him being “exceptionally sexy,” Doherty chimed in that he’s no Michael Bolton.
Turning back to music to round out the show, however, the band lined up three of its most popular singles: “Recover,” “Leave a Trace” and “Clearest Blue,” the latter of which was the kind of crescendo needed to round out a show.
But at just over an hour, the set left plenty of room for more.
And there was.
The group returned for a brief encore, during which Mayberry thanked the audience for coming, noting that $1 from every ticket sold benefits Girls Rock! Phoenix, which works to empower girls, trans and gender nonconforming youth through music education, creation and performance, according to the organization.
Mayberry, Doherty, Cook and Scott ultimately delivered two final tracks – “The Mother We Share” and “Never Say Die” – before once again parting – this time for good.
Music aside, the show was – in usual Chvrches fashion – a visual treat. With plenty of flashing lights and colorful visual cues, all surrounding Mayberry’s extravagant outfit, there was much with which fans could be enamored.
But with Phoenix checked off the band’s itinerary, now it’s on to Southern Arizona, where Chvrches will make its Rialto Theatre – and Tucson – debut.
Under the Tide
Leave a Trace
The Mother We Share
Never Say Die
Photos by Kimberly Carrillo