Worth it?

When the doors opened at the O2 Academy in Birmingham on Wednesday night (25th November), Emma and I were stuck in traffic. We hadn’t parked and we hadn’t had a chance to eat despite leaving just after half 4. The journey to Birmingham had been fraught and with both of us having an early start the next day, there was a lingering question: would this be worth it?

By the time we arrived home it was well past midnight. The A42 was closed, meaning a simple journey back to Nottingham ended up being diverted around past Burton and almost up to Derby. Again, the question was: was it worth it?

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Chvrches, the Scottish electro-pop three piece, were playing the O2 that night.

I keep coming back to Chvrches. They are a band suitable for any mood, and indeed every mood, and don’t have a single bad song across either album. It’s been 2 years since they released their debut album, and a few months since they released their second. Both are of exceptional quality, both in the studio and live.

I mentioned in my Imagine Dragons review a couple of weeks ago that I like bands that add different elements to their songs live, mainly riffing. Chvrches don’t do that in the obvious sense of it, but in a less obvious one they do.

While the songs aren’t different, the layers are more complex. The music is heavier, the vocals more intense. They remain the same band they are in the studio, just more powerful, more chilling.

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Chvrches comprise of Iain Cook, Martin Doherty and Lauren Mayberry. Lauren, the vocalist, has a journalism degree (I very much approve) and is the face of the band. She has a wonderful voice, which rarely falters live. With electro music, there is always the possibility that the vocals will get lost. With Chvrches, that couldn’t be any further from the truth.

Mayberry owns the stage, as good as any other front, and interacts with the crowd on a regular basis. When we saw Chvrches at T, she told us not to throw piss at people, in Birmingham it was more positive – about how this gig was the penultimate one on the tour and that the songs had become very polished.

It was her who draws you in.

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But that is not to say she is the only part of the band. They are a band, a fact that does seem lost on some people some times. The music doesn’t drown out the vocals, nor do they overpower it. They complement it. All three of them provide an energy that is infectious and a gig that is mesmerising. When Martin sings Under The Tide, he proves that he can also hold a stage as a front as Lauren took a backseat.

So, how do you do a second album tour? Play a bit of both albums, allow fans old and new to sample and enjoy. Chvrches did exactly that, to great effect. Both my face and throat hurt by the end of the night, for I spent the whole gig smiling and singing.

One day Chvrches will play arenas, maybe even stadiums. That’s the direction in which they are heading, and will happen sooner rather than later. But, let’s consider it doesn’t. Even if they continue playing venues such as the O2 in Birmingham, they will own every single stage they occupy and leave every fan, would be fan, and demi-fan begging for more.

Was the journey worth it?

What do you think?

Chvrches played:

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The future of rock?

I’ve realised recently that our, well my – I ramble too much, reviews tend to be too long and so, starting from now, I’m going to cut them down. That doesn’t mean that every gig from now on is less enjoyable than the ones previously, I just want to be more concise in our writing.  

What do I expect from a gig? Firstly, I expect to be entertained, after all music is an art, and secondly, I want to hear a bunch of songs I know and love. It’s actually a very vague description of what makes a good gig and therefore one of the reasons there hasn’t been a gig that I’ve bought tickets for that I haven’t enjoyed.

There’s a little more… A good support band is always useful, although a bad one can make the main act more special. A good support band will rattle through as many of their songs as they can, talking and interacting with the crowd a little but mainly using the opportunity to showcase their music.

The main band should be a little bit different. I think a good band plays their music but adds in different elements, be it a different version of the song, riffing at the end of it or more interaction with the crowd. Particularly riffing. I like riffing, it showcases the talent within the band beyond what they do in the studio.

Essentially, I want a band to be better live than their records are.

Imagine Dragons (and support Sunset Sons) at Nottingham on Friday 6th November were all of that mentioned above.

The Nevada band are more of a rock band than, I think, the public think they are. They certainly have plenty of pop influences within their music, and that’s what has made them commercially successful, but the four of them seem to want to be fully blown rock stars.

Imagine Dragons, Capital FM Arena, Nottingham, 06-11-15. Photo by Laura Patterson. Must credit on use.

Imagine Dragons, Capital FM Arena, Nottingham, 06-11-15. Photo by Laura Patterson. Must credit on use.

They throw in the riffing, they allow members to show off with solo’s, they play songs that people in the crowd might not know if they don’t know the band and, in a great move, they mash their own choruses together to fit in more of their earlier songs. There was even a touching moment when lead singer Dan Reynolds asked people to be humans and buy their song written to give money to charities helping the refugee crisis. Charity singles are a huge part of rock history!

Lead guitarist Wayne Sermon is clearly influenced by prog rock guitarists, highlighted in his solo section, while combining that with a more modern sound.

The gig was packed full of songs from their new album, all of them sounding better than they did on the record. This is impressive when you consider that their second album really is an impressive work of art. Where Night Visions gave them commercial success and a world wide following, Smoke & Mirrors seems more like the music they want to make and I prefer it.

Songs like I’m So Sorry, Gold, I Bet My Life and new one Roots were all born to be played live. That, right there, is the definition of making good music.

Imagine Dragons, Capital FM Arena, Nottingham, 06-11-15. Photo by Laura Patterson. Must credit on use.

Imagine Dragons, Capital FM Arena, Nottingham, 06-11-15. Photo by Laura Patterson. Must credit on use.

The rock scene is full of snobs. Snobs who refuse to give pop the credit it deserves, who think that the only way to make rock music is to make it away from the public eye. In reality, that kind of thinking will only ever see rock music die out. If rock bands have to infuse their sounds with pop elements to gain a bigger following, then so be it. Rock bands were made to play stadiums. Once Foo Fighters, Green Day and Muse finish there will be very few who can actually do that.

Now, I’m not saying Imagine Dragons will play stadiums. I’m saying that I think their methods point towards the future of rock music. And if I’m right, then it’s a future I’m more than happy to be behind.

Another snobby view is that modern music is talentless and pointless. Seeing Imagine Dragons live is just one of many ways in which you can prove that to be utter trash.

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Courtesy of Emma Still

Imagine Dragons played:

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