Back in April 2015 when I reviewed PVRIS’ debut performance in Brighton — when they supported Lower Than Atlantis — I said then that they could have headlined the gig themselves. Well almost exactly one year later, the three-piece from Boston returned to the Concorde 2, to do just that. It was also the first date of their first UK headline tour where all eight shows had sold out.
Just twelve months earlier they’d made their first ever trip to Europe and being third on the bill only had time to play half a dozen songs. Despite that, PVRIS (and, in particular, front woman Lyndsey Gunnulfsen — aka Lynn Gunn — shone) At the time, on the strength of what I’d witnessed, and having chatted with the band at length, I also wrote that it was obvious they weren’t just another support. Since then, there’s no question the band’s stock has risen. However, at the time I fully expected PVRIS to blow up and become huge. Well, so far at least, neither has quite happened. And that, I have to admit, is a little surprising.
Perhaps it’s just down to timing and they will go on to become massive. Perhaps, it’s because up till now there’s been nothing much newsworthy going on with them. Despite White Noise, their excellent debut album, containing ten well-crafted songs in the Paramore vein, it never troubled the charts. And with the only new material being one new song from an about-to-be-released deluxe version of their 2014 release, a year on they’re still plugging much the same music. This time of course, being headliners, the pressure has ramped up a notch.
So how did this gig compare with that memorable night last April? Well, for a start, right from the off, PVRIS had the audience in the palm of their hands. Or should I say Lynn Gunn did. Make no mistake, as good as the band are (and they are), this was always the Lynn Gunn show. She is PVRIS and it’s because of her that they are something special. The 22-year-old writes the songs and is the focal point of the live show. It’s a live show that saw them bring their own lighting and sound techs, something most bands who play Concorde 2 don’t do. Yet while they also brought a bunch of extra lighting, and projected imagery onto a backdrop, presentation-wise I have to say it was unremarkable.
Perhaps the biggest difference about this gig was the crowd reaction. I remember it was impressive last time, but now with a bigger fan base and an audience familiar with the songs, the atmosphere at Concorde 2 was ramped up. Hands punched the air, people jumped up and down and those crammed at the front sang lustily whenever beckoned.
Sonically, apart from Lynn’s raw, emotion-filled voice, the plaudits — just like last time — went to the man behind the drums. Back then, I commented that Justin Nace really deserved to be made a full-time member of the band. Why he hasn’t I don’t know, but after another powerhouse performance, there’s no question it’s his driving beat that makes a huge difference to their live sound. This was particularly evident on two of the night’s best sounding songs Holy and Eyelids, both of which, thanks largely to Nace’s drumming, are much bigger live than on record.
But whilst we got to hear twice as many songs as last time, only one of them — You & I — was a new one. And that was a shame, because a couple of covers or even some extended versions would have gone down well, whilst elongating what was a very short set for a headliner. Indeed, they finished so early they were able to come back later in the evening and do a DJ set.
When I interviewed them before their Brighton debut, I remember how ambitious they were: they told me they wanted to be the biggest band in the world! Well, I’m sure doubt PVRIS will get bigger. But by how much and when depends on their sophomore album, how good it is and when it comes out. As many new bands find, when you’ve only got an album’s worth of material, touring as a headliner is quite a challenge.
After playing the new single You & I as the first of their encore songs, the show ended on a high note with My House which, being PVRIS’ most explosive song, had everyone jumping and fist-pumping. And with that, just like their first performance in Brighton a year earlier, it was over too early.
I’ve no doubt Lynn Gunn’s stock will continue to rise, she’s too talented a song-writer and performer for that not to happen, but great songs and stage presence aren’t always enough. I ended my review of their Brighton debut describing PVRIS as “Easily one of the most exciting and compelling new acts out there.” I also said that “next time they return to Brighton they’re gonna need a far bigger venue.”
To be fair, if they had had a bigger stage, I think we would have seen a much better show. PVRIS were good, when really they should have been great.
Words: Gary Marlowe
Photo: Images Out Of The Ordinary
Follow PVRIS at @ThisIsPVRIS
White Noise deluxe edition is out on 22 April 2016