Bringing to a close their Every Open Eye tour with a blown-out performance on the lawn of the Hollywood Forever Cemetery early Monday night, Chvrches aimed for the Hollywood hills with their shockwaves of synthpop extravagance. Transforming the small stage they were dealt into a festival headlining level show of body-shuddering sonics and rally synth explosions, lead vocalist and sprinter, Lauren Mayberry kept the crowd’s energy affixed to her bottomless well kinesthetic passion. By the end of their hour long set, the 28-year-old must have ran a few miles worth of the stage’s length, which she spun, twirled, leapt, and head-banged across for virtually every song–how she managed to get in a cardio workout while also belting out the soaring, stratospheric pitches of her croons is beyond understanding. Refusing to give the crowd one-inch of downtime, Mayberry talked little throughout the set, except when to make a light-hearted dig at contemporary pop–mentioning that the next Katy Perry song will be full of wonderful pop “rasberries” and incoherence–and then taking a serious note to implore fans to register to vote, for which a booth was present to help them do just that.
Ever the vocalist, Mayberry, has made a name for herself not just as the lead singer of Chvrches but as an active feminist and journalist; something for which she’s received plenty of sexist, vicious flak for on the internet. After Katy Perry comments, she humorously clarified the statement in reference to her critics: “I just want to say I love Katy Perry. I don’t want the bloggers saying I hate her, then I’ll have the Perry fans and the rapists rising up against me; imagine that?” Mulberry’s comments may have been made in jest, but the sliver of truth in them is that Chvrches brand of heavy synthpop compositions, its emotionally acute catharsis and exultant glittery nature, is a bold antithesis to the more saccharine, one-dimensional of pop out there. Live, every thundering of their synthesizer and electronically percussive melody not only pushes you emotionally to a release, but also carries with it the cutting trill of Mayberry’s viscerally honest narratives; with every gorgeously clarion shout she offers to the audience the chance to join her in defiance against not just romantically oppressive lovers, but any injustice against their individuality itself. Whether it was belting out the shimmering hopefulness of “Make Them Gold” or pummeling into submission fearful doubts in “Clearest Blue,” Mayberry and company effuse and gush by the liters a vigorous tenderness–one that, even behind all the neon lights bursting onstage, is hard to miss.
Plowing through the rebellious fervor of Every Open Eye, sending their meteoric expulsions of synths and Mulberry’s own mountain-leveling croons, songs like “Never Ending Circles” and “Keep You On My Side” threatened to crumble the cemetery’s ancient stones to dust with their soul-oscillating reverberations. With every chorus, every glistening, sparkle of Iain Cook and Martin Doherty’s synthesizers, Chvrches gave a concert for the entirety of Los Angeles, making their triumphant, dance-inducing seismic quakes felt and heard from the Hollywoood Sign to downtown.
California sweethearts Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno (Best Coast) opened the evening for Chvrches, bringing their moody surf-rock to a picturesque purple and red SoCal sunset. Dressed in her favorite tones (black), Cosentino channeled her inner-witchy nature as she ripped through a number of fittingly melancholic tunes off their last album California Nights, dicing up poignant imagism with dizzying guitar reverb on songs like “Feeling Ok” and “Heaven Sent.” With Bruno holding down the incessant bass of their more jangly, earlier hits, Cosentino threw it way back in celebration of “Boyfriend” day by playing their eponymous hit of the same name–which elicited yells of approval from the crowd as those hazy, fantasies of reconciling unrequited love mingled blissfully with glazed-over guitar lines. As always at a Best Coast concert, their play-through of their 90’s rock tinged, euphorically gloomy tribute to introspective west coast nostalgia, the aptly named “California Nights,” was a highlight as it sizzled gloriously into the fading sunset.
Words & Photography: Steven Ward
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