Live rock music owes far more to theatrics than we give it credit for. The term “rock and roll” itself implies movement: dancing, posing, and posturing, all in a mixture of sweat and fashion. Sometimes we see the quality of the music amplified via intimacy and immediacy. Far more often, we wind up with literal smoke and mirrors as a substitute for substance.
For these reasons, it is always refreshing to see a live band whose only highlight is their competency at their craft. They show up on time, dress and act unassumingly, start their set before anyone thinks they will, start each song before the crowd has finished applauding the last one, keep their banter to a minimum except to genuinely say “thank you” early and often. They have no rock myths to sell, only rock music, and even then, the pitch is to show, not tell.
Poliça – photo by Dagmar
Poliça is such a band; not one that belongs in live performance lore, but one that executes their music with passion and skill and leaves the rest behind. This is not to say that they are ‘boring’ or unready for the spotlight thrust upon them, but rather that they do not particularly need it. To be sure, there were moments and images of their Neumo’s performance to latch onto. The swift and intense, yet in-the-pocket cacophony of their two drummers and their Sade-on-steroids grooves. Lead singer Channy Leaneagh singing with her whole body during songs like “Lay Your Cards Out,” her lyrics forcing their way out with the energy of a desperate confession. But Poliça’s story is not ‘you had to be there’ so much as ‘you want to listen’. Their performance was a continuation and extension of their recorded music; it was good, but not wholly memorable, if one can say such things and truly mean them as a compliment.
When we strip away the layers of image and hype that now come standard on all models of modern popular music, in theory we are only left with what we care about the most: the music itself. The band that offers only this under the hot lights, without novelty or fanfare, runs the risk of losing the casual concertgoer or disappointing the diehard fan hoping for that extra something. But their quiet confidence ultimately rings louder than any parlor trick, swagger, or amp turned up to 11.