LIVE: PVRIS @ O2 Academy, Birmingham

By Mark Johnson

Receiving widespread appreciation for your debut album must be a fantastic feeling. That is, until you have to try and follow it with a second album. The superb ‘White Noise’ gave PVRIS a perfect start to their alternative-pop journey and after setting such a high bar, follow-up ‘All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell’ had the potential to be a make-or-break moment for the trio. Seemingly unphased by the pressure, PVRIS exceeded all expectations with album number two, proving their unquestionable ability to turn out massive hits, while maturing and refining their sound. To top it all off, the UK has greeted the band with a string of sold-out shows, meaning they’ll no doubt be heading back to Massachusetts thoroughly relieved, and hugely excited, at how the year has played out.

Front-woman Lynn Gunn tells the crowd that this show at the Birmingham O2 Academy has broken the record for largest crowd at a PVRIS headline show, adding further credence to the band’s impressive trajectory. And it’s not without merit. Gunn begins the set from behind a keyboard, kicking off with the first notes of ‘Heaven’, and as it flows from the gentle introduction to huge, anthemic chorus, it emphasises how impressive the band’s songwriting continues to be on ‘All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell’.

Gunn’s voice is a little rusty at first, but after bursting through crowd-favourites ‘St. Patrick’ and ‘Smoke’, the vocals sound powerful and impressive thereafter. On the stripped-back, piano and guitar rendition of Same Soul, Gunn’s vocals are particularly impressive. Introducing the song by stating “we’re going to get emotional with this one”, the added vulnerability in Gunn’s voice certainly gets this across, making it one of the highlights of the evening.

Throughout the set, the three members of PVRIS demonstrate their artistic merits, all contributing to the array of instrumentation that makes their alternative-pop style so refreshing and interesting. Both Alex Babinski and Brian MacDonald can be seen tinkering with synths and effects while navigating their guitar and bass duties respectively and in addition to guitar and keys, Gunn takes the opportunity to vent some energy on a second drum kit, stationed at the back of the stage.

The live instrumentation gives PVRIS’ music a wonderful vibrancy and particularly on the new album tracks, the prominence of guitars are a welcome addition. While the recorded versions are a perfect balance of the many elements at play, the live environment is punctuated by the massive, rumbling bass tone and crisp, acoustic drums, giving each song a new personality for the stage. Having the chance to witness a different side to PVRIS live to on record, makes their live shows a must-see experience and gives it an additional charm and appeal.

With ‘All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell’ exceeding expectations and the band’s live show going from strength to strength, PVRIS have proven themselves worthy of the highest praise. As the packed-out crowd lap up the band’s carousel of huge hits, it’s easy to picture this show migrating to an arena in the future and if they can maintain this level of quality, there’s no reason to suggest they won’t make it there.