In the two years since ‘Pang’s release, Caroline Polachek’s career has grown unbelievably. Deservedly, of course, but not in the way other artists have emerged over the pandemic.
While others had their big break via viral hit – see: Doja Cat, Megan Thee Stallion, The Kid Laroi and hundreds more – Caroline’s rise has been (excuse us while we get a bit pretentious) old school organic. Aside from a gorgeous cover of The Corrs classic ‘Breathless’ and one new single this summer, our Caz hasn’t actually done much publicly other than watch ‘Pang’ grow and grow through various lockdowns.
It’s perhaps why, at the start of tonight’s show, she says she was nervous about releasing tickets for it. In one of a few speeches of the night, she mentions how different the world was back in May when the show was announced, live wasn’t officially back, and she seems completely bewildered that she’d sold out London’s Roundhouse in an hour.
But she needn’t worry. The crowd here have spent two years living with ‘Pang’, some cherishing it from its release, others picking it up along the way, and every one of them relishes in chanting “CA-RO-LINE SHUT UP” and trying to hit every high note in ‘Ocean Of Tears’.
Prior to tonight’s show and an impromptu concert at Islington Assembly Hall the night before, ‘Pang’ had only gotten two live outings in the UK. Once two years back at Hoxton Hall, and once at Heaven in March 2020 just days before a national lockdown. It’s insane that this is the same album cycle, but the differences are striking. The addition of a live band and a choir during the last two tracks intensifies Caroline’s operatic vocals, and easily the biggest hit of the night (other than pre-encore set closer and certified smash ‘So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings’) is most recent single ‘Bunny Is A Rider’.
Between the bangers, the tender moments hit just as hard. Special guest Danny L Harle joins Caroline on stage for a particularly affecting rendition of ‘Look At Me Now’, where in front of a single guitar, her signature natural autotune is best showcased. She’s also joined by Sega Bodega, yes, tonight’s guests aren’t a patch on Charli XCX and Christine and the Queens, who guested in LA, but hearing the room rumble in anticipation before each announcement followed by a collective ‘oh’ is hilarious. Anyway, Sega helps preview a flamenco-fulled new one called ‘Sunset’.
Letting her debut marinade over the pandemic has worked in Caroline’s favour. Weirdly, the only track from ‘Pang’ that isn’t performed tonight is ‘New Normal’, which surely would’ve been the most apt song for a return to the stage. Nevertheless, her return is nothing but triumphant. The waiting game so many fans have played to see this record live leaves everyone winning big; Caroline even calls it her favourite show she’s ever played.
Tonight, Caroline Polachek does everything she needs to do to cement her status as one of alt-pop’s key players. We’re reminded of the sheer strength of her debut, and with the performance of three new tracks (‘Smoke’ and ‘Millions’ complete the trio) she leaves us itching for new material. Finishing on ‘Door’, and as the gates on her ‘Pang’ era backdrop start to separate, one thing is for certain: after tonight, the door to superstardom is wide-bloody-open for Caroline.