Chvrches Create a “Wonderland” at Berlin Tempodrom

Lauren Mayberry performing

They might be in the middle of a massive global tour, but synth-pop band Chvrches show absolutely no sign of fatigue in their captivating and evocative show.

After a tantalising moment of lights and synth playing across an empty stage, the three band members – Lauren Mayberry, Martin Doherty, Iain Cook – and touring drummer, Jonny Scott, bounce out onto the stage and immediately launch into Get Out from their latest album, Love Is Dead. Mayberry instantly draws the eye, looking fierce yet angelic with electric blue make up banded across her face and a floor-length sheer white skirt flowing around her.

The support band, Let’s Eat Grandma, was a great mix of youthful energy (bandmates Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth being in their late teens) and quirky weirdness, but they lacked the stage presence of Mayberry. Despite this, they did a good job at winning over the crowd. Their 80’s vibe dress and hairstyles went well with their psychedelic sounds, and although they can’t be compared to any other band out there at the moment, they were a great choice for fans of Chvrches. Some of the choreographed movements came across as unpractised and awkward, but in other moments these young women seemed to be swept up in their own music and performances, and at these points they really shone.

It’s this quality of losing yourself in the music that also makes Lauren Mayberry so irresistible to watch. Her voice is powerful and pitch perfect as she twirls across the stage, pausing between lines to stare out directly at the audience. The stage lights turn to red as the band segues straight into Bury It. The deluxe album contains a version of this song with Hayley Williams, lead singer of Paramore, lending her vocals to the track, but going back to Chvrches by themselves doesn’t lessen the impact at all.

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Her voice is powerful and pitch perfect

After the first two songs, Mayberry takes a moment to stop and welcome the crowd. While her singing voice sounds clean and feminine, as soon as the singer begins to speak her strong Glaswegian accent is unmistakable – possibly baffling parts of the Berlin audience. She chats casually to her bandmates and the gathered fans about tennis, her exercise routine (or lack thereof), and pulls Scott and Cook into the conversation by pointing out the bottle of red wine they’ve brought on stage with them. Her chatty, self-deprecating manner is far from the professional and graceful persona she portrays whilst singing but is incredibly endearing and the crowd is soon chuckling along with her.

The band continues with their set, pulling out old favourites from their first two albums and playing the majority of the Love Is Dead. Despite receiving some criticism for pulling in outside producers for the first time for their latest record, the tracks from it still sound authentically Chvrches: synth-heavy with catchy melodies and showcasing their lead singer’s impressive vocals.

Synth-heavy with catchy melodies and showcasing their lead singer’s impressive vocals

Even through the tricky jumps in Leave A Trace, Mayberry hits every note and demonstrates in numerous tracks how well she can maintain pitch while strutting across the stage or even headbanging.

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Mayberry may not have written all of the lyrics for this one, but you could be fooled into thinking she did by the way she steps forward and performs them. Walking to the front of the stage, you can feel her regret as she sings the chorus of Forever: “And you will never see my side/And I will always think I’m right/But I always regret the night/I told you I would hate you ‘til forever”. She pours emotion into every song and even maintains her poise when she trips midway through a melody, barely interrupting her performance.

She pours emotion into every song

Martin Doherty steps forward to take the lead on God’s Plan and Under the Tide, and gives an impassioned and fervent performance, even if he lacks the elegance of Mayberry. The bass in God’s Plan builds to an almost oppressive level before the chorus kicks in, the lights change to laser green, and the previously swaying crowd starts jumping. He might not have the charisma of a frontman, but the fans are receptive and supportive.

The band plays only one slower song, Really Gone, placed during the second half of the set. Mayberry explains that more than that “just bums people out too much” and they found that slowing things down with sad songs “sends people to the bar during those songs”. Sitting on a stool in the middle of the stage, the heartfelt song makes for a nice change of pace and gives the audience the opportunity to just let the music envelope them.

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The show comes to a close, and the band wait off-stage just long enough to get the crowd worried, before returning to play a two-song encore. The Mother We Share – the band’s debut single from their first album – is welcomed with relief from fans who were clearly concerned that this favourite would be left off the set list. The final song of the night returns to the latest album with Never Say Die. Once again, Mayberry pours emotion into her performance so that you feel she is speaking directly to some unknown person as she sings. With fairly simple lyrics, the entire Tempodrom sings along for the finale: “Never, never, never, ever/ Never, ever, ever say die/Didn’t you say that? Didn’t you say that?”.

As the music fades and the band waves enthusiastically as they disappear off stage, the crowd is left on a total high, chatting excitedly as they exit. Although you could argue that the venue was a little too large for the Scottish band, they managed to create an electric atmosphere. The charisma and captivating presence of Lauren Mayberry had every eye trained on her for the full show, completely forgetting the empty chairs at the edges of the stalls. All in all, a first-class performance from the whole band and an unforgettable evening for all who attended.

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