Being on the road can be a gruelling affair. Often living on a diet of alcohol and fast-food coupled with little sleep and being thousands of miles from home, life isn’t always so glamorous for a band. And it’s been a frantic year for both Ryan Olsen and Channy Leaneagh who, following their time together in Gayngs, formed Poliça and wrote and released debut album, ‘Give You the Ghost’ to critical aclaim. The gig tonight in London’s underground venue, Heaven, comes after a year of touring under the pressure of having been touted as ones to watch by none other than Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon. And judging by posts on Twitter days previous, the band is energised by the fact that they will soon be jetting back home.
Singer Leaneagh affirms this as she addresses the crowd, announcing that it is their last show before returning to Minneapolis and reflecting on the tour with a sense of relief that they’d “made it”. This could also be a nudge and a wink to Phantogram, the casualty of the tour, who had supported them throughout but were forced to pull out of tonight’s show due to guitarist Josh Carter breaking his hand. To the delight of the audience though, London beau NZCA/Lines is drafted in and seduces the early arrivals with his brand of synth-laden R ‘n’ B.
‘Give You the Ghost’ is an album pulsating with percussion and grooving basslines and is also at the forefront of the live performance, no more so than with not one, but two drummers. These aren’t to be outdone by the power of Leaneagh’s vocals which soar over the bass and are delivered with power and intensity. There has been much controversy of Poliça’s use of auto-tune both on the record and in the live performances. This is evident early on in the set with ‘Dark Star’ but while the technical wizardry certainly enhances the vocal performance, it almost becomes its own instrument, supporting the carnal bass and percussion at the heart of the songs.
Whilst pedals are used to alter her vocals in songs such as ‘The Maker’, she dashes about adding synths and rhythms to the records. This makes for a rawer performance with the ranging elements coming together superbly for fan favourite, ‘Lay Your Cards Out’ which bursts into life and climaxes with a powerful double drum solo. The crowd for their part seem captivated by the performance but are for the large part motionless in large contrast to Leaneagh who puts her upmost in to the performance.
It is all the more bewildering that, when returning for the encore after an explosive rendition of ‘Amongster’, Leaneagh lambasts her own "poor performance" and says that she feels as though she hasn’t done her best. This is a souring end to an otherwise fine performance and takes the shine off the showcasing of two new songs which both spell the sign of something promising for the future. But first perhaps, a break.
Words by Andrew Darby