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It’s rare to find an artist whose live vocal ability matches what they present on record, but for a voice to surpass that is a real rarity. Enter Caroline Polachek, who effortlessly held the sold-out crowd at her London headline show mesmerised on Wednesday March 11th.
Performing the entirety of her solo album ‘Pang’, one of Dummy’s standout records of 2019, at brick-walled under-the-arches venue Heaven, she delivered an enchanting show that veered between stans singing back each word or standing still and silent, mesmerised by Polachek’s endlessly impressive vocal acrobatics.
“This might be my last show for a long time,” she warned early on, adding a feeling of sense of poignancy to the occasion amid the coronavirus pandemic – but it meant Polachek performed as if it was her final show on earth, with the audience’s increasingly excitable response in line with that atmosphere.
Stood toweringly tall on the club’s raised stage in front of a digitised gothic gate, she had the entire room worshipping at her altar from the off. Joined by multi-instrumentalist Blu DeTiger on bass, who at times played from behind a candlelit table with flowers hanging from its front, the ritualistic onstage aesthetic helped to transport everyone to an alternative reality.
After the cult icon encouraged her legion of superfans to sing ‘Door’ in choral fashion led by her own stunning acapella, it was as if Polachek had bought an entire choir with her as the audience harmonised – rather impressively – to ‘The Gate’ and ‘Look At Me Now’.
Later she would become an altogether different character for ‘Caroline Shut Up’, during which she headbanged and high-kicked the air. At times, Polachek was barely visible through the neon strobes, though it was still possible to make out her silhouette and the subtle hand movements that she used to orchestrate the energy in the room.
‘So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings’, one of the highlights in pop music last year, had everyone recording it on their phones and singing along angelically while, fittingly, flames engulfed the visual backdrop behind her before an infectious guitar riff sent the room into a state of hysteria.
A cover of ‘Breathless’ by The Corrs, described by her as her “favourite song ever”, transformed the vibe once again; with added synths, it sounded as if it could be one of her own releases, with the digitised production gradually building to take the original track in an entirely different direction.
“I’m so overwhelmed right now but the way I want to understand this is, I felt so many things making this album, and I feel like you guys all feel them too,” she enthused pre-encore, having walked back onstage to some genuinely deafening screams.
Inviting back to the stage “my lord” Danny L Harle”, who produced the majority of her album and opened the evening with a tone-setting ‘classical DJ set’ that paired synthesised bird calls with challenging pop edits, album highlight ‘Parachute’ provided one final moment of release.
“Thank you so much, take care of each other,” Polachek signed off, not knowing that days later she would be in self-isolation due to symptoms of COVID-19. While we obviously wish her a speedy recovery, Dummy couldn’t think of another artist that we’d rather have spent our final evening of musical freedom with.
Photography: Martina Govindraj