Caroline Polachek @ Roundhouse (London) – full article

By Sara Valle-Martínez

Caroline Polachek sold out two nights in a row in London on her come back to England after the lockdown. 

Caroline Polachek @ Roundhouse (London) 28/10/2021. Photo by Sara Valle-Martínez.

On the 12th of March 2020 Caroline Polachek played in London’s gay bar Heaven. People joked that she ‘opened the gates of Heaven’. To be fair, she played like it was the last concert on Earth. A few days after, England went into full lockdown along with the rest of the world.

A few days after the gig, she urged all her Instagram followers to check for Covid symptoms. Caroline herself fell ill and stayed in England for a short period of time, quarantining as the rest of the nation. It was the start of a long period of lockdowns, mask wearing lots of hand sanitiser and restrictions for everyone.

Unfortunately for Caroline, her dad passed away during April. “He hated pop music and never once came to see me perform, but his belief in the arts as a secret language for transcendent beauty, radical politics, and syncretic spirituality bolstered my faith in making music. Our artistic dialog as adults was the fruit of that relationship, and I’m so grateful we finally found it,” she said on an Instagram post she dedicated to him.

Last 27th of October was the New York singer’s first concert back in England and she sold out Islington Assembly Hall. This date was announced right after the massive success when she sold out tickets for Roundhouse in less than an hour. She said during the concert that she remembers being out, hiking with her sister, and standing right in front of a cliff thinking about this. “It was what kept me going,” she admitted to the expecting crowd.

The people queuing up were as excited as she recalled being. One of the attendees, Marco Giannoni, 30, a creative producer, mentioned: “I’m so ecstatic that I’m finally going to see her after such a long time. It’s been like, I don’t know, like two years since I last went to a concert? Shocker!”

Caroline Polachek @ Roundhouse (London) 28/10/2021. Photo by Sara Valle-Martínez.

“I’ve kind of forgotten how to go to concerts because I haven’t been to one in like two years and before I was, like, going to a concert every couple of weeks. So, it feels a little bit weird to be back lining up and stuff, but I’m happy to be back,” said Nico Conteh, 16, student.

No Covid-19 measures were taken for the concert in Roundhouse. However, the venue staff checked the vaccination passes of everyone attending the concert in Islington Assembly Hall. The attendees said they trusted this to be enough to ensure their safety during the performance. Moreover, entertainment and supporting the future of the music scene seemed much more relevant for those waiting to see the singer.

“I’ve been to two others (concerts) already. I feel comfortable going to them because I’m double vaccinated. I’ve had Covid recently already so I’m currently, like, immune. I feel like the venues are doing what they should be doing to be protecting people. And, at the end of the day, it’s everyone’s choice whether they go to a concert or not. No one is forcing you to go to a concert. So, if you’re worried about it, don’t go. They’re doing all the work they can to make you as comfortable as you can feel about it. But at the end of the day, if you’re worried about Covid… It’s a situation where you’re with lots of other people. Use your own judgement,” said Hamish Powell, 23, a London florist.

The variety of people waiting in the queue to see Caroline’s performance in Islington spoke volumes. People all of ages and backgrounds attended the concert. Even Dua Lipa and Bastille’s Dan Smith were part of the crowd, which Caroline pleased with her hit songs So Hot You’re Hurting My FeelingsHit Me Where It Hurts or Door among others.

Caroline Polachek @ Roundhouse (London) 28/10/2021. Photo by Sara Valle-Martínez.

Bunny Is a Rider and Breathless, the cover by Irish band The Corrs, were the most expected songs of the short English tour, as both were released after her last performance in the capital.

When asked about the song they were most thrilled about, James Sahin, 21, a student from Reading, said: “Obviously Bunny Is a Rider because everyone loves to be a bunny! But, also, I love I Give Up and Parachute. It’s the ethereal vibe about her as well, the energy on stage and the dancing… Everything comes together. She has a fancy of how she wants to be and you can really see that comes across through her live performances.” James was waiting with his friends to see the performance in Roundhouse on the 28th of October.

French singer Marylou Mayniel, better known by her stage name Oklou, was the opening act. She wowed the audience with her debut project, Galore. After a short wait of thirty minutes, Caroline came on stage at 21:00.

Previously known for being the singer and co-founder of the indie band Chairlift, Caroline started her solo project as Ramona Lisa and CEP. This followed the disbandment of the former and Caroline decided to start a project using her own name.

The gig opened with The Gate, followed by PangHit Me Where It Hurts and crowd-pleaser Bunny Is a Rider. Everyone whistled along the singer before starting dancing frantically to its lyrics.

Caroline Polachek @ Roundhouse (London) 28/10/2021. Photo by Sara Valle-Martínez.

Caroline had some guest performances, like the Irish-Chilean singer and producer Sega Bodega, who appeared on stage to perform Sunset, a new song that has not yet been released. Danny L Harle, the British song producer and composer, played the keyboard for her during Look At Me Now and Insomnia.

Caroline’s presence on stage was strong, exuding femininity and power equally. The crowd didn’t stop cheering, trying to reach her high notes and almost synthetic-sounding vocals. The visuals were undoubtedly stunning, but Polachek would be able to showcase her ability and ethereality even with a stark background and the lights off.

Polachek performed her solo debut album, Pang, almost in its entirety before singing one of the most expected songs: So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings. Everyone mimicked the music video’s choreography and even some brave ones tried to imitate her impressive vocal guitar riff.

Right after she left the stage and the crowd frenziedly asked for her to come back for a couple more songs. Her second show left everyone feeling ‘breathless’, as the singer herself joked before playing The Corrs’ cover by the same name.

Caroline Polachek @ Roundhouse (London) 28/10/2021. Photo by Sara Valle-Martínez.

Caroline delighted the attendees again with her acclaimed song Parachute, which she explained she wrote after a dream in which she saw herself descending onto the sea, confronting the fact that she was going to die.

“I was in an airplane, and I was terrified. And I knew that jumping off the plane was safer than staying in it. So, I looked out and I jumped. And I’m falling, plummeting through the clouds. And I see the ocean spread out beneath me.

“Everything’s happening so fast; everything’s spinning. And suddenly I feel this pull at my chest and I realise there’s a parachute and I may survive. I’m soaring, falling slowly now. I can see I’m over Los Angeles. I can see the curve of the coast.

“[…] And then it occurs to me that I’m being swept out further away. Further, and further, and I’m going to drown and be suffocated by the parachute,” she started narrating before she mentioned that, in said dream, she finally landed “on a strip of grass past the highway, between a soccer field and a strip mall. And I’ve never been so happy to be alive”.

Later after Parachute, Polachek welcomed Trinity College’s choir for her last two songs: Billions, which is said to be released next year, and the first single off Pang, Door.

The crowd drifted off to the tube and kebab shops for a late supper as the singer, her friends and crew headed to King’s Cross The Standard for an after party before leaving the country the following day. “I’m hangover but extremely happy,” she said on an Instagram story the next morning.

“Still coming down from how electric that energy was. Felt so lucky to sing to so many people so dear to me, an to have such sensitive and *batshit crazy* fans. Feels like I’ve truly found my people. Thanks for making it a manic pixie dream gig; I wasn’t lying when I said it was my favourite show to date,” Caroline added later in an Instagram post.

Link to published story in VERVE:

Link to published story in In My Unpopular Opinion:

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