Chvrches at Royal Oak Music Theatre in Royal Oak, MI

Scottish synth-pop band Chvrches enthralls fans on their Screen Violence tour with a sonic and visual spectacle supported by soulful, powerhouse vocalist Donna Missal.

Arriving at the venue, fans are already lining up more than an hour ahead of door opening time in some chilly Michigan weather. Things heat up quickly when opener Donna Missal takes the stage to loud cheers. She kicks off her set with the opening track “How Does It Feel” from her 2020 release Lighter. Backed by only a guitarist and drummer, her powerful, soulful vocals take center stage as she slowly dances about and uses her hands to accentuate throughout her set. Her 10-song set is comprised of songs like “Jupiter” from her 2018 album This Time, a few other songs including “Best Friend” from Lighter, and even an excellent cover of Radiohead’s “Fake Plastic Trees” that has fans singing along. 

Half of her set though is comprised of new songs including “Skin,” “Insecure,” and “Butterfly” that do not seem to be officially released yet. “Butterfly” is one of the best songs of the evening that starts with soft vocals and acoustic guitar and reaches soaring heights with opera-like high notes at the end. You could see and feel the emotion that was evident in Donna’s facial expressions as she belted it out. The fans are in awe of the performance and let out huge cheers. Donna breaks into a smile every time the crowd shows their appreciation, often in a shy, child-like manner with her head down as if unexpected. Two singles from 2021 also make the set tonight – “(to me) your face is love” and “sex is good (but have you tried).” The latter has a more upbeat vibe than the album version and gets the crowd moving. She closes out her set with the single “Let You Let Me Down” from Lighter. It also starts slowly with almost whisper-like vocals and evolves into an emotion-packed song that has Donna once again letting out her powerful, soaring vocals. The fans love it. She thanks the fans as she exits the stage. Make sure to arrive early and catch Donna during this tour. She has a bright future and deserves to have far more exposure.

With the venue packed with mostly standing room-only fans, the anticipation grows during a lengthy break as they wait for headliners Chvrches to hit the stage. As the lights dim, the fans let out huge cheers and applause. With a large video screen acting as their backdrop, the band takes the stage to the single “He Said She Said” which has been a radio staple on alternative rock channels. Dressed in a sheer covering over a short, silver dress that at times takes on a golden hue under different lights, vocalist Lauren Mayberry commands the stage as she spins and dances across the stage. She plays up to the fans often as she moves from side to side. It is amazing she does not lose her balance with the platform boots she wears. The fans have been waiting a few years to see them live again and they do not disappoint with a sonic and visual spectacle. The upbeat “Forever” from the 2018 album Love Is Dead has the crowd bouncing and singing along. The 2015 hit “Leave a Trace” keeps the fans enthralled and they follow that up with “California” from the 2021 album Screen Violence.

Taking a short break, Lauren engages in some banter with fans as she jokes about having to pose for the photographers and then realizes the fans are almost as close given the low stage and small photo pit. She also jokes about people wondering how such a large sound can come from such a small person. The fans eat it up. Returning to the music, she mentions playing a sad song. “How Not to Drown” from Screen Violence is that song and is a fitting introduction given it was recorded with the king of doom and gloom, Robert Smith from The Cure. With smoke, a ringing guitar tone, and video images, it gives the song an eerie, goth-like vibe. They follow that up with the new song “Violent Delights” that has some excellent musicianship from Martin Doherty on guitar, Jonny Scott on drums, and Sam Stewart from Lo Moon on bass. Sam is filling in for Iain Cook who recently tested positive for Covid-19, and he also plays guitar and keyboards/synthesizers during the show. Now wearing a short, black jumpsuit, Lauren and the band keep that vibe going with “Science/Visions” from their 2013 album Bones of What You Believe. It features a cool, space-like video with stars shooting forward and lightning streaks, strobes and has another killer jam with Martin, Sam, and Jonny. It is one of the best audio and visual songs of their set.

Having been together for 10 years now and with four great albums, they have many songs to choose from for their live sets. They string together three of their fan favorites, “Good Girls,, “Bury It,” and “Miracle,” to keep the audience dancing, waving, and singing along. Before “Bury It,” Lauren remarks that she is gasping for air having not performed for two years and still getting back in shape. This song also features some of the heaviest bass of the evening that has the foundation vibrating. One of the rare times during their set that Lauren stands still, they play “Night Sky” which has her also playing tambourine while cool visuals of stars play on the video screen.

Lauren makes another outfit change, this time sporting jean shorts and a t-shirt with the title of the next song, “Final Girl” from Screen Violence. This song features a forest video accompanied by cool red, purple, and teal-colored lights. It also has Lauren spinning across the stage throughout the song. The fans let out huge cheers again and then Lauren leads them in some overhead clapping as they go into “Recover,” and then follow-up it up with “Never Say Die” before leaving the stage. Returning to the stage, Lauren’s arms are now covered in fake blood as they play “Asking for a Friend.” They close out their 17-song set with two of their biggest hits, “The Mother We Share” and “Clearest Blue,” which leaves the fans wanting much more as Lauren leads the fans in jumping and fist-pumping to the end.

Hopefully, it will not take another two years or more before they return. Be sure to catch them on this tour as they put on one of the best live shows.

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About Gary Pahlow 40 Articles
Gary is located in Rochester Hills, MI and has been officially photographing and writing concert reviews since early 2016. His main music interests are metal and hard rock, but he is also a fan of most genres including alternative, indie, jazz, and even some pop and country. When not covering or attending concerts, you can find him traveling with his wife or watching the Detroit Red Wings.