Live Review: PVRIS – 170 Russell, Melbourne (17/6/2018)

Off the back of 2017’s sublime LP, ‘All We Know Of Heaven, All We Need Of Hell’, PRVIS ended their first ever Australian headline tour with a striking and atmospheric set, pulling a great mix of material from both records. [All photo credit: Bree Wallace].

After missing the first half of The Faim’s set, because fuck Melbourne winter weather and fuck tram delays, I found warm refuge within the bowels of 170 Russell from the biting cold and wind above. Now, aside from the miserable weather, if you’re unaware of who or what The Faim is, then here’s the 411, folks.

The Perth quartet play a very safe and digestible brand of pop-rock; with the usual amount of teenage angst and big pop-hooks. It’s harmless, inoffensive radio-friendly stuff; like pooling together Fall Out Boy, later Panic! At The Disco records, and the poppier elements of Don Broco. The band shot to “fame” earlier this year on the back of their debut single, ‘Saints of The Sinners‘, which was picked up by super-producer John Feldmann after the band sent a demo of said track off to old mate. (He’s also produced their next big release, which is apparently coming later in the year). With Feldmann’s hand guiding them, along with their international recording deal through BMG, their support position on this PVRIS tour – while not the worst or oddest fit, musically speaking – has the scent of it being about the connections The Faim have more than anything else.

Of course, that’s all just peripheral information. What really matters is how they played on the night. So, how’d these guys go? Well, it wasn’t… too bad.

Firstly, their live mix was more than serviceable, filling the room out nicely. From the reactions down the front of the venue, it’s clear that The Faim are starting to cultivate a growing fan base nationally and performance-wise, it was fine. While the band’s on-stage demeanor was jovial their actual banter felt contrived, but that being said, they do know how to work a crowd (even though most were clearly only there early to get a good spot for PVRIS) and these young dudes do know how to string along massive choruses too. On top of all that, drummer Sean Tighe carried the most energy of their set, my eye always being drawn back to him and away from the other members as he kept time for the songs. Sure, what he’s actually playing is simplistic but he holds down the rhythmic fort very well for The Faim’s music.

Sean Tighe, The Faim.

Running through their main singles ‘Midland Line‘, ‘Summer Is A Curse‘, as well as a “high school love song” as dubbed by vocalist Josh Raven (which far too liberally pulled from The Pixies), the band ended matters with ‘Saints Of The Sinners‘. Though, long before this point I had come to a stark realization: I am not even remotely the demographic for this band. And honestly, I am totally indifferent to them and their sound.

At one point, after Raven had performed a piano ballad from down in the crowd, the vocalist mentioned how we should all express ourselves freely and fully, adding that that’s something “the world is starved of right now“. Which is ironic, as during their set I was achingly hungry for something interest but was left somewhat starved once the four-piece had departed the stage. But hey, at least this current iteration is noticeably better than their pop-punk origins under The Faim’s original moniker, Small Town Heroes.

The Faim.

This Australian tour was the third time PVRIS have graced our shores; the previous two times being under the thumb of other bands. The first time was back in 2015 with Circa Survive (still one of the strangest pairings I’ve seen next that 2011 Parkway Drive/The Wonder Years tour), and the second time being in 2017 with The Amity Affliction, Make Them Suffer and Beartooth. Both tours weren’t proper fits for PVRIS as a band, and it wouldn’t surprise me if both opportunities were undertaken by the alt-pop trio simply so they could tour Australia in some capacity to support both records in our neck of the woods. Thankfully, tonight, they were finally the stars of their own Aussie show – giving solid time to both 2014’s so-so ‘White Noise‘ and the album driving this very touring cycle, 2017’s most excellent ‘All We Know Of Heaven, All We Need of Hell‘.

While I don’t care for much of ‘White Noise‘ aside from the title track, ‘Holy‘, and the stripped version of ‘You And I‘ – as I find it to be a rather overrated record – ‘All We Know Of Heaven…’ is a great release fully deserving of PVRIS’s initial hype. It saw them embracing their alt-pop songwriting even further, creating a darker sound yet a more inviting atmosphere in the process. It showed off a deeper, more polished production, and the lyrical content saw front woman Lynn Gunn bearing the lowest and worst parts her soul for all to see. It’s a sublime album through and through, and many of its songs came into their own tonight with the tour’s final Melbourne stopover; coming right out of the gate with ‘Heaven‘.

Lynn Gunn, PVRIS.

However, for the first few songs of their set, Lynn seemed to struggle with her pitch and projection vocally. Perhaps she was tired, sick, or having issues with her in-ears (of which she fiddled with a lot early on), or maybe all of the above? Hard to tell, but either way, most of that’s out of her control. And to be fair, as the set went on, the singer dug deeper to find the strength to really aim for those louder, belter parts of certain tracks. Like the “No I never sold my soul” pre-chorus in ‘What’s Wrong‘, the bridge of ‘Anyone Else‘, or the super-charged choruses of ‘No Mercy‘. Besides, the adoring crowd that had gathered in-close tonight was more than happy to help Lynn out, filling the room with a chorus of voices for any given section of a song.

With the kind of layered music that PVRIS write, a lot of their song’s instrumentals are triggered samples or played off a backing track. While that was the case for much of the material here, their live instrumentals were blended really well with said backing parts, chopped vocal edits, and any and all added synth pads. Meaning that neither Alex Babinski’s melodic and darkened guitar playing were lost in other parts of the mix, nor that Brian MacDonald’s bass work was swallowed up the atmos and ambiance of these tracks. Oh, and while we’re on band members too, a massive shout out to the band’s long-time touring drummer Justin Nace for being as tight and as animated as ever behind the kit! I’m just really glad the band have stuck by this guy and him by them.

Brian MacDonald, PVRIS.

Aside from a decent light show nailing the mood of each song and the group’s moody but fitting low-key energy, PVRIS must be commended for two core aspects of their set that’ll keep this solid evening in people’s minds for a long time.

First off, their use of backing visuals, played from giant screens behind them, was a stroke of genius. These added visuals drew your eyes (and your attention) further into the proceedings, and added to the large production of the band’s live show nowadays. From black and white footage of early 20th century dance halls during ‘What’s Wrong‘ (fitting the greyscale aesthetic of their latest LP and it’s subsequent music videos); eerie over-lapping vignettes of Lynn during ‘Holy‘ that were seemingly taken right from that song’s music video; to shifting light patterns bolstering the beautiful sonics of ‘You And I‘; right down to the well-timed images of war that’d land with the energetic rhythms and faster pace of the powerful ‘No Mercy‘. This visual set-up worked so fucking well, gifting a whole other impressive layer to PVRIS’s set. Trust me, without these video elements, tonight’s show would not have been anywhere as good as it actually was.

Secondly, and much more subtly, I noticed there was always atmospherics, samples or lower notes ringing out in-between songs; flowing in and out of each piece performed in a cohesive manner. Having these little “interludes” between songs helps to keep everyone watching and listening even more involved in the set itself and kept the pacing of the night’s headline act just right too. The only two times that this didn’t happen was halfway through when Lynn addressed the crowd directly – thanking all for coming out, asking how we’re all going, etc. – and once more right after ‘My House‘ “ended” their first set before an encore of the bangin’ ‘No Mercy‘; silence left for the crowd to fill with their chants and rabid screaming.

Combine all that with those additive visuals, a great set list, a dedicated crowd, all with a good light show, and you have a damned strong showing, all things considered.

Just as I said in my review of ‘All We Know Of Heaven…‘ last year, it would be the record that would push PVRIS out of mere support tour roles and into bolder headlining realms; turn them into a long-lasting household names. As it so often turns out, I was right in my assumptions, and while this particular show wasn’t quite sold out, it proved PVRIS’s progress and rise as a band without a doubt.

Also, just putting it out there, a lot more shows should only have two bands play.

My feet were very thankful.

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