21st October at the Ritz
Poliça are comfortable on stage. I’ve not seem them perform before, but I love their music. Inventive electronic production, gorgeous auto-tuned vocals, driven bass and two drummers on two full kits. It is not a normal set-up for a band, and I was curious to see how they would perform live. As they walked out the four members took a quarter of the stage each. Each member a corner of a perfect square. It was a bold and refreshing change of pace from the standard approach of having the lead singer centre stage — something few would consider questioning.
Opening the set with ‘Berlin’ was a perfect choice. A dark, brooding song which starts with a few clicks and clatters from the drums. A bass line then appears from nowhere and either fills you with a sense of dread or excitement — I am not sure which. Then Channy begins to sing: “Silent be in bed. Ashes drawn all around and down my head.” Her voice dips and soars, effortlessly reaching impressive high notes with searing passion. Listening to their records, I always found Poliça’s music to be pensive. However, live there is an urgency and ferocity which is extremely entertaining to watch.
Lead singer Channy and bassist Chris are both sharing the front of the stage, and both own it in their own right. Channy stares straight through the audience, right to the back of the room as she delivers lyrics which tell personal confessions and dystopian declarations. Chris moves with his bass guitar, and it is infectious, with much of the room moving with him. Although the square formation is their natural state on stage, both Chris and Channy break from it often enough to keep things interesting.
Drummers Drew Christopherson and Ben Ivascuand cannot go unmentioned. During several songs the electronics, the layered vocals, the bass, all came to a sudden stop. Filling the silence were drum fills that were genuinely thrilling. Short, punchy, unexpected. Both drummers often played the same fill. Moving from one side of the kit to the other in synchronised rolls. Each sharp stab on the tom-toms was a slap in the face, waking up the audience and keeping the crowd engaged.
The set contained most of the singles they’ve released from their three albums, so Poliça kept the crowd in good spirits. This was surely clear to them when Channy revealed that night was her son’s first birthday. The crowd gave an appropriate, and sincere “aw!” Poliça’s music is far from bright and sunny, but sometimes that’s not what you need to make a crowd happy.