Last night, at the Greek theater, Caroline Polachek propelled her song into the stratosphere; she didn’t simply interpret them, she provided the visuals for her synth-pop tunes, and the entire show was a dreamy experience of ethereal beauty.
Most of the songs she performed were from her 2019 album ‘Pang,’ her first solo work under Polachek’s full name since the break-up of her band Chairlift in 2017, but she had a few surprises in store, and nobody got disappointed. ‘This is the most amazing sight,’ she told us after a few songs, looking at the crowd. Humbly, she took a moment to remind us how grateful she was for her success, mentioning a show at the Fonda theater in 2020 – during which she felt from the stage – and especially her first solo show ever, at Zebulon in 2019 in front of 300 people, adding she could not imagine she would be headlining a show at the Greek 2 years later.
Molly Lewis opened the night with a whistling set of nostalgic vintage ballads. ‘I am a whistler,’ she joked after 2 songs, and the virtuoso 31-year-old continued pursing her lips, whistling her tunes with their silent old-movie vibe. She was backed up by a full band and two singers, although not a word was pronounced during the songs. It was a relaxing and peaceful collection of original music with a retro flair during a LA sunset.
I had heard about Alex G quite often but I had never really seen him, except very briefly during a festival a few years ago. His music was a bit disorienting, morose but dynamic, explosive at times, with folk elements and abrupt to ragging chord changes. He was moving on stage a bit awkwardly, making large steps and he stayed on the dark side of music on guitar, but also moved to a small keyboard for a few songs. The set included songs from his 2019 album ‘House of Sugar’ as well as older ones, and if there were a few fragmented melodies here and there, I mostly remember strange and chaotic music, sturdy riffs, at the image of his stage moves. I must say I would entirely disagree with the Elliott Smith comparisons he has received.
Setlist: Gretel- Southern Sky – Hope – Bobby- Kute -Taking – Kicker – Near – Bug -Brick – Horse – Bad Man – Sportstar– Walk Away – Sugar House
Caroline Polachek knew this was a special night, and she made everything in her power to make the night unforgettable. She cleaned the stage, and if it was not some David Byrne’s American Utopia type of thing, it got very close. Her musicians had been pushed to the back of the stage, almost invisible, while she had the vast stage for herself, her ample dance moves, and a series of guest stars. Christine (of Christine and the Queens) came up on stage for ‘La Vita Nuova,’ a song off her EP of the same name featuring Polachek, and the two women delivered one of the hottest numbers of the night. The Greek was on fire, and Christine’s sexy dance moves wonderfully completed Caroline’s graceful steps. Chris looked like a nervous Michael Jackson, kneeling down and whirling around Caroline’s statuesque silhouette, but this was not the only hot duo of the night as Caroline brought on stage several other queens: Tik-Tok-famous and bassist extraordinaire Blu DeTiger who played during the new song ‘Bunny is a Rider,’ then Charli XCX who accompanied Caroline during ‘Ocean of Tears’: both women kneeled down heads against heads, danced with their two bodies entwined together. It was a sexy view, and the hotness of these moments didn’t escape anyone in the crowd. The atmosphere switched to pure emotion with another guest, Daniel Nigro, who recently produced famous pop names such as Carly Rae Jepsen and Olivia Rodrigo, for an intimate rendition on guitar of the delicious ‘Look at Me Now,’ showcasing Polachek’s delicate vocals.
If I never pay attention to the public once I am in the pit – who can blame me, I was front row and there was so much to see – this enticing collection of guests may have triggered the gathering of the hottest young pop stars of the moment, as Gracie Abrams, the HAIM sisters, Phoebe Bridgers and Olivia Rodrigo were spotted in the crowd if I believe social media.
But Caroline was alone on stage most of the night, and she had the presence of an unearthly apparition, her voice was floating to magnificent heights, and her body, draped in a gothic dark red dress, seemed lighter than air. Moving in front of a fairy tale gate, she looked like an amazon warrior or a grown-up Disney princess, with her high boots and long hair; she was pure elegance, determination, and abandon at the same time, with her long arms in the air, always balancing the tempo of the music or the emotion of the moment. Plus, it was such a pleasure to listen to her beautiful real voice, without the artificiality of Auto-Tunes technology as she does on her album.
During the chorus of ‘Pang,’ intense bright light was flashing on her at each of her ‘Into me/Pang, and then I go,’ for the most beautiful effect, while her flexible voice was climbing higher notes with agility. From ‘Hey Big Eyes’ and its ethereal chorus, to the hooky loop of ‘Hit Me Where It Hurts,’ to the quirky abruptness of ‘Bunny is a Rider,’ the show was a succession of exhilarating bliss and disarmingly charming moments. Meanwhile, most of the songs turned into singalongs, with uneven or even completely out-of-tune voices coming from the pit and everywhere.
A new song, ‘Sunset,’ produced by Sega Bodega had Spanish-Flamenco guitars, while her vocals kept their eerie register, and she continued to charm the audience with the nonchalant and subtle ‘Go as a Dream.’ She brought her cover of ‘Breathless’ (originally performed by Irish band the Corrs) to the same dreamy level as the rest of her songs. ‘So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings’ was a joyful hit, with its light, adorable ‘80s sugary feel and she came back for a 3-song encore, wearing a green dress, teasing us with a few ‘this is our last song.’
She gave a long introduction to ‘Parachute,’ telling us about a dream that has inspired the song, a dream about jumping out of an airplane over Los Angeles because something terrible had happened. This ‘beautiful way to die’ became a luminous song with her operatic vocals rising above the slow melody, and since surprises never seem to stop with a Caroline Polachek show, the national children’s chorus appeared on stage for her new song ‘Billions’ and the always enchanting ‘Door’ – the last artist I saw doing that was Nick Cave a few years ago. This certainly added to the magic of the night whose dreamy theme never stopped rewarding the audience.
Caroline Polachek definitively found the right aesthetics for her musical reverie, her aerial songs became fully alive and she invited everyone inside her stylish universe for the delight of the Greek audience, during a hot summer night in LA.
Hey Big Eyes
Hit Me Where It Hurts
Bunny is a Rider (a new song performed with bassist Blu DeTiger)
La Vita Nuova (with Christine and the Queens)
I Give Up
Look at Me Now (with Dan Nigro)
Ocean of Tears (with Charli XCX)
Go As a Dream
Breathless (cover Corrs)
Caroline Shut up
So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings
Billions (The National Children’s Chorus directed by Luke Mick Endiffer)
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