CHVRCHES – Margaret Court Arena
CHVRCHES – Margaret Court Arena
Support by Mansionair
Photos by Rick Clifford
Review by Sarah Rix
CHVRCHES at Margaret Court Arena
It was a slow start for CHVRCHES at Melbourne’s Margaret Court Arena – and it was this delayed beginning that lead to a rushed show. Doors to the venue opened far later than originally scheduled; the band waylaid due to bus troubles during the Sydney-to-Melbourne commute.
With their instruments stuck somewhere on the highway (the band coming from a show at Sydney’s Hordern Pavilion the night before,) adjustments had to be made. WAFIA’s opening set was cancelled; Mansionair went on over an hour late; and CHVRCHES – whose gear was hastily setup while the opening band played – had to battle through a few problems.
If there was an optimistic point to the show’s proceedings, the adjusted schedule meant that Sydney trio Mansionair were playing to a packed house. While audiences tend to filter in for the opening acts, by the time Mansionair got on stage it seemed every seat in the venue was filled – the floor swelling with bodies. The band came to impress, too, fighting to win over the crowd.
Reminiscent of Canada’s Bob Moses with a heady mix of rock and electronics, the group certainly know how to write instrumental parts and frontman Jack Froggatt delivers the lyrics with conviction. New single, “Technicolour”, was evidence of that and, as a vocalist, he’s also able to captivate people thanks to the ambiguity of his voice.
While Mansionair struggled slightly to get the audience to singalong, the familiarity of Odesza collaboration “Line of Sight” worked well and the band ended their performance to a sea of phone lights with “Astronaut (Something About Your Love)”. It was an ambitious – if a little rehearsed – opening set and, as they continue to get stage experience – their presence will inevitably build them into a powerhouse, festival-ready band.
After a warp-speed stage changeover, CHVRCHES came on with opening song “Get Out” from the band’s third album, 2018’s Love Is Dead. It was also an energetic beginning but – maybe due to the delayed start or possibly due to Margaret Court’s acoustic – the Glaswegian act would constantly struggle with the sound.
I say this as someone who goes to a lot of shows: the music was way too loud. Way. Too. Loud. It was as if the sound engineer saw they were playing an arena and turned up the settings to 11. In actuality, Margaret Court is a theatre setup at best (and a tennis court if we’re being honest.) If they hadn’t been in such a rush, perhaps the band and their crew would have recognized and adjusted for this. Instead: ow. My ears.
It was difficult to get past the loudness. It numbed the senses, detracted from their musicianship, and made all their songs sound the same.
Still, though, CHVRCHES made every effort to pull through. While on record they’re a three-piece, the addition of a live drummer has added some dimension to their show.
If they were frustrated over the situation, too, they didn’t show it and it was a lively offering at the very least. “I’m just going to talk less and we’ll try and cram as many songs in before curfew,” vocalist Lauren Mayberry told the audience between belting out songs and twirling around the stage. Indeed, the banter was kept to a minimum – the group instead rushing through a 15-song offering.
“God’s Plan” (not a Drake cover, for the record,) saw keyboardist Martin Doherty take centre stage. His voice has certainly gotten better over the years, but he still doesn’t seem a natural frontman. He performed to the audience well, though, helping to amp up the energy in the building.
“Recover” – one of the band’s first singles – would prove a crowd pleasure, though encore starter “The Mother We Share” remains the perennial favourite, the band starting it off slowly before launching into it proper.
If you could get past the loudness (which was difficult, to be sure,) then at least the show was a hit to the guts. And despite the wait, the audience was thankfully up for it. “It doesn’t feel like a Monday night,” Doherty said to end the night. “You guys are not a Monday night crowd. Thank you.”