7 Jul 2020
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Pluto - Gig Review: Pluto @ San Fran, Wellington - 15/11/2019

16 Nov 2019 // A review by Tom Ashman
As the sun set on Cuba Street on a Friday night in early summer 2019 the lights came up on the legendary San Fran stage. The venue had been gradually filling up and the decent sized crowd pushed up to the front of the stage to watch as the first silhouettes started to appear, plugging in guitars and fiddling with drum hardware. The support act for the night Wellington locals Same Name Confusion took to the stage to get everything suitably warmed up with their energetic, guitar-driven, Britpop sound. Band members added a healthy dose of dramatic performance to their set and put on an altogether inventive and entertaining act.


Next up was the main event, Pluto’s comeback gig, a decade in the making. Front man Milan Borich muttered into the microphone, “It’s been a long time”, before a swathe of synth cut through the venue, marking the intro to Pluto’s newest single Oh My Lonely. Every ear in the room pricked up to listen to the captivating sounds. Oh My Lonely from their new album IV is a beguiling rock song, and great opener, picking up where the band left off all those years ago. There is a sense of nostalgia built in to the melodies and lyrics, a kind of longing that is both heartfelt and enchanting.

Pluto’s new album IV was recently released on November 11th, and this show at San Fran is one of two shows (the other being in Auckland later this month) that support the new release. Pluto continued their set of new material blended seamlessly with their older stuff. Sounding tight and well-practised they went on to perform their 2005 hit Long White Cross. Another emotional rocker that has aged remarkably well. Pluto has kept a consistent sound that certainly shows signs of development with the newer material but still maintains a core that is essentially THEM. There is a clear thread that ties their past and present work neatly together, a sound that feels deeply meaningful and legitimate.

From a technical point of view the stand out vocals of Milan Borich display a versatility and ingenuity that is hard to rival. Pluto are also masters of backing vocals, combining with the lead to build heavenly choral arrangements that are a major part of Pluto’s distinctive sound. Matthias Jordan's keys and the backing vox of Tim Arnold and Mike Hall lift the entire sonic experience to a new plain. Michael Franklin-Browne on drums is understated and does a perfect job of acting as a base for the more subdued parts of songs as well as providing drive for the big choruses.

Pluto’s stage presence seemed genuinely humble yet quietly confident. Not ones for brash rock n roll exercises of ego. They have a manner that adds to the power of the music simply by the band being its conduit, letting the sounds flow. It never felt like they were trying too hard or insisting on the audience’s attention too much, conversely this only serves to make the show more captivating.

The set continued with more old and new material, Rainbow Blood from the new album combined elements of upbeat funky rhythm with the arena rock type choruses that are a mainstay with Pluto. Much of their music has a kind of Pixies meets The Killers vibe about it, without sounding at all derivative of either.

A personal highlight of the set was another track from the new album Revolting. This slow-burning masterpiece has some stellar lyrics and an awesome vocal melody that cleverly interlocks lines, seamless flowing from one part to the next. The chorus is a spectacle of powerful angst, a desperation lurking under the surface with Milan’s breaking vocals.

Pluto’s songs are refreshingly short, never going on past the point of the listener losing interest, and never feeling self-indulgent. Each song felt honed and lean, well written and brilliantly performed. Pluto’s live show not only equalled but arguably exceeded the quality and range of their recorded output. They succeeded in nailing the energy of the songs and performing (in its truest sense) the range of emotion contained within their material.

The San Fran gig was well worth the decade wait. The fans twisting and moving in the stage lighting and dry ice that spilled onto the dance-floor seemed to give off a sense of homecoming, the return of a well-loved band and musical output, with all the attached emotional ties and associations of everyone’s shared past.

As the gig drew to a close Pluto played their final encore of the night with Alight, Mike Hall's bass thumped through the chests of the crowd and the air moved, ringing with the waves of music coming from the stage. Pluto are one of those rare bands that manage to capture and project something greater than the sum of their parts. There is a depth to their music that simply cannot be faked. When a like-minded crowd gather in an intimate venue like San Fran to listen to a shared sound and experience a shared feeling; that is when live music is at its best.

 

About Pluto

Pluto is a New Zealand rock band (mostly) based in Auckland. The group played their first concert together opening for Neil Finn in 2001 and have gone on to support the likes of Duran Duran, Crowded House, Muse, Gomez and The Dandy Warhols. They
performed at the SXSW music festival in Austin, Texas twice, and made regular appearances at the Big Day Out.

Pluto’s most successful commercial release to date is their second album, Pipeline Under the Ocean (2005), which went double platinum on the RIA NZ albums chart. The album’s lead single Long White Cross won the 2006 Tui Award for Best Song of the Year. From the same album, Dance Stamina took out the 2006 B-Net Award for Best Song of the Year.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Pluto

Releases

IV
Year: 2019
Type: Album
Sunken Water
Year: 2007
Type: Album
Pipeline Under The Ocean
Year: 2005
Type: Album
Redlight Syndrome
Year: 2001
Type: Album
A1 A2
Year: 2000
Type: EP

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