PVRIS Set Hammersmith On Fire

When Lowell, Massachusetts-based PVRIS (pronounced Paris) formed, they were a male-fronted five-piece metalcore outfit called Operation Guillotine. That quickly shifted to the enduring trio of frontwoman Lynn Gunn, bass + keys man Brian MacDonald and guitarist Alex Babinski on guitars for the first two of the group’s trio of LPs to date, Babinski departing the group ahead of 2020’s Use Me being released. Along with a change in name and make-up of the group, PVRIS’ sound also shifted completely, with rock guitars and drums layered with pop and electronic stylings dominating, but the group’s metalcore foundation not forgotten. And that mash-up of sounds has been the draw of PVRIS to a wide demographic of music fans, tonight’s massive show at London’s Hammersmith Apollo proving the point.

PVRIS @ Hammersmith Apollo

2022 single Animal from an as yet announced fourth LP kicks off proceedings, Gunn appearing on stage shrouded in darkness as drummer Denny Agosto and other half of the PVRIS duo Brian MacDonald take position in their respective cube structures on either side of the stage, flanking their frontwoman, Gunn’s high-pitched vocals dominating the track underpinned by a storming beat and synth-rock.

PVRIS @ Hammersmith Apollo

2021’s Monster, infused with pitch-shifted backing vocals is led by Gunn’s shout-along chorus and driven hard by Agosto’s beats and MacDonald’s cutting synths, the Hammersmith crowd shouting the song’s title right back at the frontwoman at all the right moments as she paces across the stage, her outfit of an oversized suit jacket, pearl necklace, schoolboy shorts and wet-backed hair uniquely Lynn Gunn.

PVRIS @ Hammersmith Apollo

The 28-year-old frontwoman straps on a guitar for an outing of debut album cut Mirrors, the crowd erupting at the tracks opening beats and synths, Gunn flexing a different set of vocal muscles, the song’s honey-slick melody weaving gorgeously across harsh, industrial instrumentation. Use Me lead single Dead Weight evokes Lady Gaga wrapped in industrial rock before the album’s next single Gimme A Minute is aired. Addressing her audience Gunn says “We did not look out into the crowd the entire night and as soon as we walked on stage we all went … *sigh* … we should’ve worn diapers”, chuckles rippling out across the former Gaumont Palace cinema venue.

PVRIS @ Hammersmith Apollo

“This is, I think, the biggest crowd we’ve headlined to … ever” she offers, before welcoming her London audience, encouraging them to get to know each other and kicking off sophomore record cut What’s Wrong, another opportunity for Gunn to showcase her delicious vocals. The stage is lit red for 2015 single Fire before 2019 single Old Wounds gets an outing, Gunn’s soulful voice reverberating around the Apollo before it is accompanied by storming beats, a gentle nod taking over the Hammersmith crowd as her vocals stretch to the next octave.

PVRIS @ Hammersmith Apollo

“This next song requires two words that you need to know, those are: My; Way” the Lowell, MA native instructs to screams from the crowd before the group descend into 2021 single My Way, Gunn firmly placed behind her mic stand, adding gloriously distorted guitars and bringing back that industrial tinge. Gunn’s trusty Fender is switched out for a classical guitar next, the frontwoman strumming the opening bars to Anywhere But Here as the venue’s security personnel shine torches at a spot at the back of the standing crowd. The song is stopped abruptly as Gunn ensures all is well in the crowd: “can I get a hell yeah if we’re ok?” she asks before restarting the 2022 ballad. Hell yeah, we’re ok Lynn!

PVRIS @ Hammersmith Apollo

“This is crazy” Gunn beams, taking in her audience before organising an impromptu photo call. “My girlfriend at home told me that I have to shout out our cat Petey at some point” she says, asking her crowd to call the cat’s name, hoping her partner finds the call-out on social media before too long. And as cheesy as these moments might seem, they go the extra mile to humanising the experience and endearing the frontwoman to her audience.

PVRIS @ Hammersmith Apollo

PVRIS
PVRIS

“Old one” You And I harks back to a distant … 2016 and features a fun sing-along. 2020 LP Use Me’s soulful title track slows the crowd down before the main set is closed out with 2019 single Death Of Me. “Do you have your dancing pants on?” Gunn demands of her audience before offering “I shaved my legs for this!” in dry comedic style.

PVRIS @ Hammersmith Apollo

Of course the night isn’t over, and after a short departure from the stage PVRIS return, kicking off a three-song encore with funk-laden new tune Goddess before White Noise single My House has the crowd singing along once more.

PVRIS @ Hammersmith Apollo

“This has probably been the coolest show … so far. Hopefully it won’t be the last one” Gunn ruminates before demanding the crowd put their dancing shoes and party pants back on for single Hallucinations, the 2019 banger having the crowd using those dancing shoes before too long as the frontwoman continues to pump out delicious guitar licks.

PVRIS @ Hammersmith Apollo

If electro-pop, synth-rock or some other suitably unsuitable genre mash-up label isn’t your thing, it might be easy to dismiss PVRIS at first listen. But once you’ve been drawn in, catching Gunn & co. live is a transcendent experience. Where some live shows might take away those special corners of songs listeners grow to love leaving gaping absences, tonight was a masterclass in how to bring carefully crafted recorded tracks to life with minimal electronic gimmickry, showcasing raw musical  talent and having fun on the journey.

PVRIS @ Hammersmith Apollo

Live review and photography of PVRIS @ Hammersmith Apollo by Kalpesh Patel on 26th January 2023.

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