Friday, 8 April 2016

PVRIS - O2 Forum, London, 07/04/16

Over the last year, PVRIS have grown at a ridiculously rapid rate. I saw them less than a year ago when they supported Lower Than Atlantis and a lot of the crowd had no idea who they were, and now just twelve months have passed and they're embarking on their first UK headline tour, having successfully sold out every date and upgraded the majority of shows to higher capacity venues? That's a remarkable achievement. I've been anticipating this show for a long time, despite the fact that I'd never heard of either of the supports.

Bones were up first, and I was surprised when I found out they were from London: they're absolutely brilliant, and I was certain I would have heard of them before if they'd been fairly local to me. Their vocalist (whose name I can't tell you - there's a real air of mystery surrounding this band, and I can hardly find any information about them online!) has a unique vocal tone that makes them stand out - they certainly sound more American than UK, as her voice would fit perfectly in the soundtracks for shows such as 'True Blood' and 'Sons of Anarchy', proper southern shows. I'm shocked that they haven't gained more mainstream attention for the music that they're performing, because it really is something special.
From the moment they stepped out onstage in their matching 'Ghostbusters'-esque boiler suits, I was hooked. They were on stage for just over half an hour, but it genuinely felt like it had only been ten minutes - you can't help getting carried away in their music. It helps that the chemistry between the members is so palpable and that the vocalist is so confident in owning the stage. From the first line on 'Happy', which she sang backwards over her shoulder into the microphone, I knew I was in for an interesting show: there aren't many opening acts who can own a stage at a sold out show like this.
I've heard the phrase "making love to the microphone" before, but I'd never experienced it until the vocalist started sashaying forwards during 'Electric' - you can see why their catchphrase is "We're called Bones, and you're about to get boned! We hope you enjoy yourself, because we're definitely going to", because they do put on an extremely sexy performance.
However, they aren't just using their sexuality to get attention as some artists do. They're brilliant at writing lyrics and crafting a diverse range of songs - the first half of the set is pure energy and fun, but then it comes to the inspirational 'Life is for Living', with the inspirational rhyming couplets "graze your knees, break your nose, go outside when it snows" telling the crowd to make the most of every moment.
They also have extremely feminist songs throughout their set, taking their position as women on stage and inspiring every single female who goes along to see them. From 'Beautiful is Boring' and 'Pretty Face' to 'Fat', they aren't afraid to deal with the expectations of the media and the prevalence of the dieting and cosmetic industries in our day to day lives. The most impressive song of their set, though, was definitely 'Girls Can't Play Guitar' - they dedicated it to a guy who approached them after one of their sets in Camden, who saw one of their gigs and said "it was pretty good, but it was biologically impossible for girls to play guitar as good as boys". After the crowd booed and jeered, the singer shouted "I KNOW!", and what followed was their response to his comments - it's so badass, and I really hope that guy is proud of himself for inspiring such a brilliant song and making himself look like such a douchebag.
If you've been looking for a heavier, female-fronted rock band, look no further - particularly if you're looking for one that have a great message for the masses. 

Beautiful is Boring
Life is for the Living
Girls Can't Play Guitar
Pretty Face

The other support of the evening was k.flay who, again, I hadn't heard of until she was announced as being part of this tour. A lot of people were freaking out about it, so I assume she's been making some waves somewhere... It was just some hype that had completely passed me by.
Now, after seeing her... I don't really understand the big deal. Kristine performs in a kind of rap style - but it's not really rap because I enjoy rap, and it wasn't fast and it didn't really go anywhere - but it's also not RnB, and I wouldn't call it pop or dance because it's not that mainstream. I was getting Halsey vibes throughout her set, because her sound has an indie, unclassifiable vibe, but I just didn't really get it.
It might have been her voice, but I just couldn't really gel with the songs. I was enjoying the beat and kind of felt like dancing because her music has a very funky sound, but I think I would have enjoyed it more if it had been instrumental - her gravelly tone with the consistent yelping noises got very old, very fast. Yes, it's unique, but unique doesn't always mean good - I like listening to singers who can actually sing.
The highlight of the set (the only positive aspect for me) was Lynn Gunn coming out to drum at the end of 'So Fast, So Maybe'. I knew she was talented - her voice is evidence enough of that, but she also plays guitar on stage - but finding out she drums as well?! That's a very impressive hat trick.
I'm glad I've listened to k flay, if only because it's given me the opportunity to decide for myself that she's really not my cup of tea.

Thicker Than Dust
Turn It Around
Can't Sleep
So Fast, So Maybe
It's Strange
The Cops
Make Me Fade

This was my fifth time seeing PVRIS, so I already knew I was going to enjoy their set. This is the first extended show of theirs that I've experienced - the rest being support slots or festival performances - and I knew there was a good chance that they'd end up playing debut album 'White Noise' in its entirety.
I wasn't wrong. Playing the full album, as well as adding in 'Only Love' (an older song which I'd never heard before) and brand new single 'You and I', they still only stayed on stage for an hour. It's the only problem with catapulting to such a high level of popularity so quickly: the band just don't have enough songs to fill an extended stage time, while only playing an hour for a headline set still seems quite short. It did mean that the set flew by, but that must have just been because I was having so much fun - the only time I wasn't singing at the top of my lungs was while I was appreciating how beautiful 'Only Love' is.
This set was a celebration in every form of the word. A celebration of birthdays: Lynn dedicating 'St. Patrick' to a Simon, and wishing happy birthday to a 17 year old and a 21 year old respectively (quipping "It's your 21st? In America that's the one where you get really wasted", reminding the crowd that she didn't celebrate that milestone too long ago herself). A celebration of a wonderful year, all stemming from their first tour supporting Lower Than Atlantis (the fact that their vocalist, Mike Duce, was in attendance at the crowd was a poignant moment). A celebration of their success so far, with Lynn saying "It was our first time here a year in ago in the UK, and we played the Barfly. [...] We didn't think we'd be playing in front of [this crowd] tonight a year ago, when we were just here for the first time", and you could see how proud she was throughout their set. There were a few points where she allowed the crowd to take over the vocal for her (most effectively during 'Fire', in which she sang the lyric "What you give" and allowed the crowd to call the rest of the verse back to her) and the response was electric.
But most of all, this was a celebration of 'White Noise'. With the deluxe reissue coming at the end of the month, and the promise of a second album being worked on behind the scenes, it's nearly time to close the chapter on what has been an amazing debut album, and there's no better way to do that than to play it in full. From the popular singles (the crowd reaction during 'St. Patrick' and 'My House' being particularly energetic) through to the poignant 'Eyelids', the band did not neglect a single moment of the set, pouring themselves into each movement - particularly Alex Babinski and Brian MacDonald, whose synchronized dancing throughout the evening was one of the best things I've ever seen.
I was just so beyond impressed with this show. Performing 'Only Love' and 'Ghosts' stripped back, just Lynn and Alex, showed a vulnerability that the band don't normally demonstrate, and it made it feel so extremely intimate - it was possible to forget, just for a moment, that there were over 2,000 people in the room. Moving from that pared back performance into 'Holy', Lynn requested that the crowd put their phones away just for the one song - another very special moment, as the majority of the crowd complied without a second thought - but it cemented how personal this band are when Lynn changed the lyrics of her own song to call out to someone in the crowd: "You make it seem that you feel whole, so they don't know, don't think that I can't see those phones". It was such a humorous moment, and for a band to have interactions with a crowd of this size so easily... It's something amazing to experience.
Hearing 'You and I' live for the first time was definitely a surreal experience - it's only been out for a matter of weeks, but it got the crowd moving more than almost all of the other songs combined. Lynn's voice is transcendent, and while I'd worried about whether it would live up to the recorded version (come on, this song is EPIC), it actually surpassed it. I'm sure I'm going to hear it again when I see them supporting Bring Me The Horizon in two weeks, and I'm definitely looking forward to that - I was so wrapped up in the moment that I didn't really take it in. I already can't wait to see this band again.
Now: I'd read a lot of reviews about the O2 Forum before attending this show, and I'd seen a lot of people complaining about the venue - I genuinely can't understand where any of the comments were coming from, because this show was one of the best that I'd experienced. The band didn't play a note wrong and the sound quality was perfect: it was a wonderful place for me to experience my first headline PVRIS show. I don't normally comment on venues in my reviews, because I focus on the music, but it feels right to because the O2 Forum is probably one of the best venues I've been to - especially for seating, which is where I always am (I don't want to get in the way of you moshers while I'm making notes about the band!). You could see the stage perfectly, but I could also see the crowd dancing away below me: it really added to the atmosphere, and it felt like a huge party that everyone was involved in, rather than feeling removed from the event in the seating area.
So while PVRIS were amazing and I can't recommend their live show more, I think we all already knew I was going to say that. Come on, I'm a bit of a PVRIS super fan (sat here in my PVRIS jumper reviewing their concert, using the notes on my phone that has a PVRIS wallpaper...) - it was going to take a lot for me to not love this show. So while I'm telling you to go and see PVRIS (GO! RIGHT NOW! WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!) I'm also telling you to please give the O2 Forum a chance - I'm definitely going to return their at the next possible opportunity, despite the fact that I've heard terrible things about it.

St. Patrick
White Noise
Only Love 
Let Them In
You and I
My House

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