Live Review: CHVRCHES – Barrowland Ballroom, Glasgow 10.06.23

Chvrches performing at Barrowland Ballroom in June 2023

Chvrches shared chilling visions with a killer synth-pop soundtrack to a reverent Glasgow congregation as their Screen Violence World Tour reached its climax.

Barrowlands buzzed with anticipation, as an eerie electro intro with more than a hint of Vangelis rang out from an empty stage. It was sweating room only for the first of a two-night sell-out at the iconic ballroom, but the crowd were patient, aware they were in for a treat. All those assembled knew that they had bagged a red hot ticket; Chvrches in this venue at the beginning of the end of the world tour for their fourth album.

That album – Screen Violence – is a concept album for people that loathe concept albums. A cinematic reflection on everyday horrors: impossible expectations, cancel culture, failure. That may sound seriously serious, but this is an album by a band that understands that the best horror films have a healthy dose of pleasure amid the pain. Think cutting one-liner lyrics that Buffy the Vampire Slayer would be proud of and pulsating soundscapes of 80s electro and dance that John Carpenter would die for. Screen Violence is the perfect blend of frightening and fun.

The set opened with the powerful punch of ‘He Said She Said’ – the first hard-hitting single from Screen Violence. The band then powered through ‘Forever’ from their third album Love Is Dead – the perfect predecessor, as that album could have been the soundtrack to a John Hughes film. They’ve moved on from teenage dreams to grown-up nightmares.

Bringing Screen Violence to the stage has obviously been a labour of love. A big screen at the back of the stage shimmered and flashed behind the band but also showed scenes pulled straight from a bad dream. A slow-motion drowning provided the perfect backdrop to the gothic genius of ‘How Not To Drown’, and blood-red trees in a shadowy forest speeding by added to the impression of a struggle to survive during ‘Final Girl’.

But this performance was not just about celebrating Screen Violence. Chvrches have built an impressive back catalogue, and tracks from their first three albums also got dialled up; drummer Jonny Scott adds depth to their live sound, giving Lauren Mayberry, Iain Cook and Martin Doherty more freedom in their performance. The echoing layers of ‘Science/Visions’ from their first album – The Bones Of What You Believe – was a highlight.

With Mayberry theatrically covered in fake blood (effectively her fourth costume change of the evening), the band ran through a euphoric encore of ‘Asking For A Friend’ and crowd-pleaser ‘The Mother We Share’. Luckily the audience had enough energy left to bounce their way through the absolute banger ‘Clearest Blue’, which arguably features one of the most satisfying drops in pop music.

To watch Chvrches perform live is to see a band confident in their creations. There are no diluted visions here. Despite some of the horrors of our current culture, they are rightly unafraid. They are off to slay Glastonbury next, ensuring more devotees worshipping at the altar of Chvrches before album number five.

Photos © Rhiannon Law

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