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PVRIS / K. Flay / Alvarez Kings – Manchester Academy – 04/06/16
Around this time last year we was at Manchester Academy 2 waiting for PVRIS to hit the stage to kick off Lower Than Atlantis’ huge headliner show. It was PVRIS’ first UK shows, and even as first support they brought a whole army of fans down early to the show. It was clear even from their short set that they would go on to achieve big things. Tonight we’re over the road at a sold out Manchester Academy 1, but this time PVRIS are at the other end of the bill about to play their first ever Manchester headliner show. It goes without saying that this has ended up as one of the most anticipated tours of the year after they rise of PVRIS last year…
Getting the ball rolling tonight is Alvarez Kings (7). The Sheffield indie lads take full advantage of the early turn out with their relaxed progressive sound and big choruses. Front man Simon Thompson holds plenty of character and spirit to drive the band through the short set confidently, as he strolls around the stage making sure everyone from the crowd to his band are enjoying themselves.
Their set is steady and sounds great, particularly their stripped back acoustic ‘Sleepwalking’ that has the Academy lit up with mobile phones from front to back. It’s slow trickling verse is beautifully played and the front man’s vocals are on full display as he stands alone front stage, but the crowd quickly backs him up clapping along with some encouragement from rest of the band.
Guitarists Paul Thompson and Sean Parkin are hidden out of the spotlight to the sides of the stage but make their presence heard with their clean and well polished playing, whilst drummer Richard Walker looks well animated as he thrashes through the huge choruses.
The South Yorkshire lads close the set assertively and prove there worth opening up tonight’s show with little problem.
Following Alvarez Kings is the fantastic K. Flay (8) who has flown over from America with PVRIS to take on the UK crowds. Her sound is very different to what you would expect to hear, but we love it. A mix of indie hip-hop and electronics create some special tracks throw up a pretty entertaining support set. Opener ‘FML’ is enough to grab everyone’s attention and silence the chatty crowd, with Kristine Flaherty AKA K Flay’s flowing hip hop vocals. She has an unusual recognizable grungy voice that comes across great live, and her cool stage presence has her gliding around effortlessly showing little need to encourage the crowd to get involved, because she knows eventually they all will be.
‘Can’t Sleep’ ends up being one of our favourites from the short set, it’s got something special to it that sets it above the rest but we can’t quite put our finger on what it is. The chorus is infectiously good and has everyone waving and clapping along in no time. She’s backed up with a brilliant and tight duo on drums and guitar which helps make her tracks have some impact live, however the songs don’t sound as outstanding live as they do recorded, likely because of the difficulty in bringing the electronic sound to live shows, but what they manage to pull off is enough to entertain the crowd from start to finish.
Her track with Louis The Child ‘It’s Strange’ calms things back down after the fantastic ‘So Fast, So Maybe’ which speeds the night up temporarily to a higher pace which goes down great with the Manchester crowd. An explosive finish to the song finds PVRIS front woman Lynn Gunn, spontaneously taking the front seat of the drum kit to thrash out the final pounding beats which has everyone rushing high with excitement to get their phones out to record the end of the song. The set closes with ‘The Cops’ and ‘Make Me Fade’ that have the crowd bouncing their hands in the air and bobbing their heads along to the beat, clearly enjoying the show without really knowing enough to sing along.
Hardly an explosive performance, but K Flay brings something new to the show that is hard to come across these days. With Twenty One Pilots being the only band to bring something similar to the UK we can imagine K Flay has made quite the impact in the UK on this tour and will defiantly have made more than just a few extra fans.
After an explosive year in 2015 it’s long overdue to say that PVRIS (9) have finally returned to the UK for their first headline tour. After seeing them countless times last year playing support slots and festivals, we only ever got a taster of what PVRIS had to offer live. But tonight we can finally stop dreaming and find out how good they can really be.
Lynn Gunn and co. waste no time digging into the best of their material, as they throw themselves straight into fan favorites ‘Smoke’, ‘Mirrors’ and the massive single ‘St Patrick’ which has the whole place moving. Lynn Gunn can’t stand still; she’s pacing around the stage from side to, whilst guitarist Alex Babinski and Bassist Brian McDonald linger out of the spotlight to the sides of the stages, bouncing around with some synchronized pogoing with the crowd. Lynn even has her own little box to stand on in the photo pit, which she is constantly jumping down onto to get in the face of the dedicated front row much to their delight, especially after queuing since the early hours of the morning to grab a place at the barrier.
The perfect start to the show is continued with the eerie ‘White Noise’ displaying Lynn’s vocals at her very best, before a scorching performance of the fantastic ‘Fire’ sends the show into orbit. Noticeably the stage set up has had some thought behind it with a giant mirror backdrop displaying something new for each song, much like the end of their music videos which has become a pretty trademark thing for PVRIS.
Having flown through 70% of their best live material, it was always going to drop down a notch or two mid set. Fortunately the crowd gives a more than welcoming response to Lynn when she asks if “it’s ok to throw it back real quick?”
The Massachusetts rockers step away from their set dominating debut album ‘White Noise’ just once, for a stripped back beautiful few minutes as Lynn and Alex play through ‘Only Love’ taken from their acoustic EP. It really slows down the pace of the show, and has the crowd split down the middle, as only half seem to know about PVRIS’s EP. However it does goes down a treat with those who know it, as they want to make their voices heard by sing their hearts out with Lynn over Alex’s echoing clean guitar guiding them through the song.
A very reserved version of ‘Ghosts’ follows and feels a little lifeless in comparison to the rest of the set. It’s another perfect moment to flaunt Lynn’s vocals at full strength, but we can’t help but think it could sound so much better sped up with the rest of the band fully involved as it’s nowhere near as strong as their album version.
It’s not until the chorus of the explosive ‘Let Them In’ that the show picks back up to it’s full potential. The cold stage glows orange and suddenly that fire in Lynn’s belly that we had seen early in the night is back at full flame. She bursts back into life and the crowd is feeding from her energy leaving the floor shaking beneath us. It sounds HUGE, especially with Alex, Brian and drummer Justin Nace thrashing out their instruments in such a fierce manner. This is arguably PVRIS at there very best showing their full potential. We can only hope that PVRIS have more of these furious rock songs locked away for album number two because it’s moments like this that everyone is going to remember.
Speaking of new material, ‘You and I’ is the response to deafening cheers for an encore by the crowd after the band disappears for a few minutes. As you’d expect It sounds amazing live. It’s progressive verse bursts into life for a chorus that has every single person in the room singing along to. As ever, there is only one way to finish a PVRIS show, and that’s with the fierce ‘My House’. For four final minutes Manchester Academy steps up to blow the roof off by getting fully involved with the American rockers, before they disappear from the UK for another seemingly lengthy spell. But before they do PVRIS make sure as hell they leave a massive impression on this crowd by blowing them away.
It was everything we were expecting and a little more from PVRIS tonight. Furious rock songs, stripped back emotional moments and ‘White Noise’ in its entirety. As good as it was, they gave us everything they had in less than an hour, leaving everyone is craving more. We can only hope hidden away in Lynn’s little black book of thoughts and lyrics is enough to construct album number two sharply, because we’re all desperate to see what this breathtaking band have to bring us in their next chapter.
Photography – © Danny Peart Photography