Have you ever tried to remember what it was like having sex with your high-school girlfriend (or partner, don’t mean to be sexist)? You can remember flashes of flesh and certain more adventurous acts, but all those little details that really made it have drifted away and all you’re left with is a sense of longing. Well, that’s what trying to remember what Pivot’s show at the Annandale last week was like, although maybe that’s got more to do with how the band make me feel in my pants than anything else. They did list it on Facebook as an erotic party though, so I can’t be totally to blame. Regardless please bear with me and excuse the major lapses in professionalism.
Anyway adolescent sexual exploration aside, Pivot were awesome. While I was a little apprehensive about the new more vocal-driven material, I must say it was a highlight, which is saying a lot because O Soundtrack My Heart is one of my favourite albums to have come out in the past decade. ‘Window’, popping up early in the set, was the first of the new tracks to worm it’s way up out of the booze induced amnesia of the night. I seem to remember I saw Richard taking hold of the mic and doing things to it in a very Pivot-do-vocals way. The lyrics, delivered in a halting rhythm, were captivating as well as being really fucking catchy. Like really catchy, so catchy I’ve forgotten almost everything else about the song, except that it has a doom laden breakdown, littered with jarringly infectious beats and plenty of wondrous sounds emanating from the heap of guitars, synths, pedals and god knows what else they had piled onto the tiny stage.
They treated us to a few ‘oldies’ if you will, running through O Soundtrack’s lead single ‘In The Blood’, as well as fan favorites ‘Didn’t I Furious’, ‘Sweet Memory’ and ‘Sing You Sinners’. Each of the old songs arrived with it’s own ambient intro, and while at first I thought they were a bit loose in execution it soon became apparent that any deviations were intentional, and I’m assuming products of reinvention while touring.
The only low point in the entire show was ‘Crimson’, one of the new songs, which to me seemed to lack the focus and energy of the rest of the set, and while not being a bad song at all, seemed a strange choice to sandwich in amongst more upbeat numbers mid set. I must say though it was nice to have a rest from dancing for an abortive attempt at taking notes, and even though I failed at writing down anything comprehensible, I think I would have been throwing up lactic aid by the end of the set were it not for this down tempo number
They finished the set with ‘The Quick Mile’, their current teaser single getting played at triple j (finally) and by jove did it rawk (listen to it here). Opening with minimal drums, with Laurence making use of the rims of his toms and snare to deliver that wonderful sort of clicky backing the band are very fond of, the song slowly escalates with clean and throbbing sythns while Richrad croons, “I was not there” over the top, before the song delves into deeper and more familiar Pivot territory as the band build up layers of synths and vocals on top of the irresistibly syncopated drumming.
I really have to say that Richard’s vocals impressed me a lot. Having seen them play some of the new material at previous shows and festivals such as Days Like This and Playground Weekender, it was apparent that this was the first time they were fully prepared to play the new stuff live, not to mention getting the sound right (the less said about the abysmal sound at Playground the better), as what had been impressive, if somewhat underwhelming songs before were now fully imbued with the glory of a Pivot live performance, resulting in devastating slabs of synth riddled and angular sonic mastery.
Also I feel I should mention laptop maestro Dave Miller. The man is some kind of crazy musical mainframe hacking genius, sort of an R2-D2 to Richard and Laurence’s C3P0 and Chewbacca, but for the life of me I have no idea how I would even begin to go about describing what he does on stage other to say “he’s like really good at sound manipulation, programming and live looping guys, like for reals”. It’s very odd watching the band, knowing that Dave is generating, or at least handling, a lot of what I’m hearing but having no real way to tell. If anybody reading this can explain please comment below.
Coming back on for their encore they first treated us to yet another new song and the last for the night. Titled ‘Circle’, I remember almost nothing of this song other than dancing spasmodically with my hair in my eyes and the sour taste of a mini-spew in the back of my mouth. Suffice to say I really enjoyed it, I just wish I could fully explain why.
Anyway, they close as they always do with the epic Blade Runner meets Battles opus ‘O Soundtrack My Heart’. This has got to be one of the best songs ever written by an Australian band, I mean it’s just so fucking epic, it’s what I would play if I were marching a Roman army into a conquered Gallic citadel. Live they absolutely killed it, like usual, although for my money the Annandale system was not loud enough, which is probably due to the band needing to keep things clear in and amongst all the auditory chaos they generate. Still though, low volume or not, they were able to give a bollocks rollicking rendition of the song in all it’s epic glory and wonder.
All the musical awesomeness aside though, what really struck me about the show was how well the band have managed to make their sound more accessible with the addition of lyrics, but doing so in such a way that it is still by no means mainstream or clichéd, rather remaining challenging and innovative. Compared to say, Sigur Ros, whose last album is better left unmentioned, Pivot have achieved what so many bands struggle to do; to broaden their sound without loosing what made it great in the first place. Don’t get me wrong though, I could always cop more instrumental madness from the band, and if they had essentially just released a sequel to Soundtrack I still would have been very happy, but instead of that they have struck out from the ‘Australian Battles’ box and into a new territory, curious and wonderful, where many strange creatures live and die. However, having had the good luck to have heard a few early mixes of the album late last year, I’m very confident that on record this new material will demolish even the expectations set by this outstanding show, the music’s real ambition and vision being allowed to come to life not having to deal with the constraints of the realities of small club shows and shitty festivals.
One small problem though before I go. Laurence? Where’s the drum solo?
Photography by Kurt Davies