Pnau – Billboard the Venue (26.07.11)

Pnau have finally made it back on Australian shores this year, touring with the Big Day Out festival and playing their first run of headlining side shows since Nick Littlemore ‘vanished’ from the spotlight back in 2009. The atmosphere in the band room was electric as the lights dimmed and the audience was bathed in darkness, eagerly anticipating the spectacle that was about to be unleashed.

One thing was apparent from the moment the stage lights flicked on – Pnau have evolved during their time away. There are no more strawberry or dove suits, Littlemore now wears a shirt and their live show now involves a five piece band with live instrumentation and minimal electronic production. Opening with new track “Everybody” Littlemore instantly won over the crowd with his charismatic presence that is still all encompassing. Pnau’s new material is far more emotive than their previous work and the punters were happily bopping along to the unfamiliar sounds.

Hearing old favourites “Wild Strawberries” and “Baby” played with a full band was a strange but fun experience, with the entire band room grooving and singing along to “Lover” and new single “The Truth”. The second half of the set was populated entirely by old tracks including fantastic renditions of “Embrace”, “Dancing On The Water”, “Come Together” and “No More Violence”, which saw Littlemore down on his knees unleashing his amazing vocal screams that are still as dead sexy today as they were four years ago when the Pnau record was released.

Pnau encored with another new track “Twist of Fate” and ended the night on a high with “With You Forever”, that was accompanied by a mad lights display. Had this been my first encounter with a Pnau live show, it would have been a fantastically fun affair. However I’ve been a fan of the band for a long time and have seen Littlemore and co. gigging around Melbourne in various incarnations since 2007, and as such I found Pnau’s return to the live circuit to be an underwhelming experience.

Their live shows have always been a phenomenal visual and aural feast and their performance at Billboard was lacking in the fire and intense energy that I have come to associate with Pnau. The band themselves seemed to realise something was missing with Littlemore apologising to the audience during the encore, saying ‘sorry for being a bit shit tonight, this is our first show in a long time’. Here’s hoping Pnau will find their feet again quickly. Their gig was enjoyable but definitely not memorable.