CHVRCHES lights up The Pageant, St. Louis

CHVRCHES, a Scottish synth-pop trio (consisting of Lauren Mayberry, Iain Cook and Martin Doherty) from Glasgow, rocked The Pageant on a cold December night in St. Louis. The band has come a long way since the first times I saw them at Bonnaroo in 2014 and 2016; the addition of a fourth member, a drummer by the name of Johnny Scott, to the Screen Violence Tour really upgraded the raw power of their show! What used to be a very solid, yet near identical rendition of their studio recordings now feels like the band can truly rock out and put a live spin on all their upbeat pop hits.

A lot of CHVRCHES’ songs center around girl power and finding the balance between self-doubt and the feeling of empowerment that you get when coming out on the other side.

All of these themes are driven home by the band’s lead singer and frontwoman Lauren Mayberry’s powerful and joyous delivery of the lyrics. Her upbeat and often emotion-filled voice acts as a counter balance to the band’s tendency to include lyrics which, on their own, would feel very dark. This juxtaposition between powerful pop vibes and borderline depressing lyrics is all held together by driving bass lines that you feel in your chest and cheery synth riffs that give bursts of energy. These elements give the entire set a feeling of awe and hopefulness that things could eventually be better.

They say time flies when you’re having fun and this goes double when attending a CHVRCHES show.

The quick pace of the songs, interspersed with Mayberry’s lighthearted jokes and comments between them, makes the show fly by. The band’s manic performance, which actually lasted around 90 minutes, felt like a 5-minute roller coaster ride through a wide range of emotions. It would also be a disservice to review this show without mentioning the opener, Donna Missal. The New Jersey-born singer took the stage and owned it in a way that reminded me of seeing Bishop Briggs when she was first starting out: high energy, spinning and jumping across the stage in a way that made it clear that she was there to enjoy herself and perform some songs for the crowd, as well. Her raw voice went from belting to restrained, showing great range within each song. Her sound was slightly retro, with clear influences from other powerful female artists a la Stevie Knicks, Sheryl Crow and more. Much like CHVRCHES, Missal’s lyrics explore the highs and lows of womanhood and romantic relationships. Donna’s delivery, however, is a bit more traditional. She sings over calmer guitar lines, with a hint of country and rock lending their hand to a very powerful and heartfelt show.

All in all, this show was an energy filled ode to girl power and a reminder that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. The North American leg of CHVRCHES’ Screen Violence Tour ends in California for their final shows and then continues to the UK, as well as several international festival appearances in 2022. Be sure to catch them if you get the chance!

Photography by Sean Rider

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