Chvrches frontwoman Lauren Mayberry, closing out both the first day of Fun Fun Fun Fest and the band’s U.S. tour, literally came out swinging Friday.
Well, they were more accurately fist pumps, but after some pre-show light-twinkles and etheral sound-shimmers, such a martial gesture struck just the right contrast for the night. The weather at Auditorium Shores, creeping down into the 60s, made the Scottish band feel right at home launching into “Never Ending Circles.” The comfort only swelled through an entire set of triumphantly dark kiltcore. (The last time the band was in Austin was ACL Fest 2014, when the weather was “hotter than the (expletive) sun,” according to Mayberry. She was happy to be in a jacket and not sweating this go around.)
As expected for a band whose singer isn’t a powerhouse (though she’s a lightning bolt) and whose sound relies on electronic beauty, there were a few shaky moments in the early going — on second song “We Sink,” Mayberry’s voice got lost in thick bass but shined through less viscous accompaniment, and the mechanical precision of the tracks didn’t always mesh with the live human performances —but as the lyrics to “Make Them Gold” go, Chvrches took the best parts of themselves and made something precious.
“Gold,” a chirpy reverie falling squarely into the band’s “sounds like a power-up in a Mario game” category of songs, kicked the set into high gear. There was flailing in a flurry of strobes, and there was much singing about fighting through gloom. “Gun,” “Recover,” Mayberry’s rockstar-making “Leave a Trace” — by the end of the show, Chvrches caught fire with kaleidoscopic mysteries and lilting threats.
In addition to comfort, the homey chill seemed to elicit warm feelings from the trio, who took three separate occasions to remember their Lone Star debut at South By Southwest 2013. Before taking the mic for his customary feature on the iridescent/buoyant “Under the Tide,” Martin Doherty copped a glimpse of candid gratitude for how far the band had come between Austin stops. Mayberry brooked no such mild manners: “Unlike Martin, I am an emotional man,” she said. “Well, sort of.” Earlier mentioned plans to see “Spectre” before leaving Austin this weekend led Mayberry to explain that, getting in town for that career-making SXSW gig, the singer left her jet-lagged party to see Kathleen Hanna documentary “The Punk Singer,” reflecting on how impossible the task of playing a major festival seemed at the time.
The theater she went to then is the same one where they planned to see the new James Bond movie Friday — a sweet little symmetry. (All chips in that it’s an Alamo Drafthouse.)
Like anything Chvrches does, the sweet was well-cut by some gleeful sour: “Let’s play songs and not talk about Daniel Craig in the shower.”