Live Review

Poliça, Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London

Poliça’s performance is in a whole different league.


Photo: Sarah Tsang
Autotune can be somewhat of a dirty word. It reached saturation point in recent years, and still now, for some reason, creating a mask to hide behind and turning those with good voices to start with ‘perfect’ is somewhat desirable when in fact it often just comes out as robotic, devoid of all emotion. However, it can be great when used appropriately. Despite its bad reputation, Poliça’s record ‘Give You The Ghost’ showcased autotune in a way that breathed life into it and gave it real emotional impact – thanks to frontwoman Channy Leaneagh. Tonight at Shepherd’s Bush Empire, its emotional resonance is tenfold, as an excited but nervous Channy flits about the stage.

However, before this happens support art Barbarossa offer their musical wares. They come off as an embryonic version of Poliça, not surprising since they both signed to Memphis Industries on the same day, we’re told from the stage. The unusual set up of live drummer to the far right is interesting and their take on electro R&B is pleasant enough but feels like something that’s already been done – hints of a similar sound to Active Child, How To Dress Well and even Wild Beasts shine through during the set.

Poliça’s performance is in a whole different league – partly due to the double drumming witnessed on stage tonight. Considering that the last place that the band played in London was the east London basement of CAMP, this is a huge step up and it’s not surprising that Channy takes a minute to stand still and says, “I don’t think I’m nervous before I go on but now I think I am.’ She’s constantly self-critical throughout, whispering “We’ll try to do better for the rest of the show” after two songs, seeming to not realise that the audience are watching in awe. Her fragility when not performing and the power and control she possesses when performing is a testament to how music can completely transform someone.

You can tell that she feels music in the whole of her body as she self-choreographs dance moves perfectly in sync to each drum beat, every sticky synth loop and throbbing bassline. She’s unable to stay still for very long, except to briefly engage with the crowd – seeming shocked throughout at the amount of people she’s playing to. Despite there being the rather unusual but welcome set up of two drummers raised up on platforms – Channy’s voice and stage presence are almost always the focal point of their performance. ‘Wandering Star’ and ‘Happy Be Fine’ are particular highlights with the combination of both drummers and Channy’s powerful but extremely beautiful vocals inducing goosebumps.

Not one but two brand new songs are played tonight, one in the form of the encore after Channy returns to the stage by herself – showing the dexterity of her voice without everything behind it briefly before beckoning her band back to the stage. At one point she mumbles “I’m feeling all out of sorts,” and once the show finishes, she’s not the only one.

Tags: Polica, Features

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