Poliça + Warm Digits
Gorilla, 54-56 Whitworth St, Manchester M1 5WW
Saturday 8th February 2020
After establishing that I’d been to a gig in Manchester, my taxi driver from Lime St inevitably asked who I’d been to see. When I told him, he looked a little confused, “What Sting and that?” he asked.
It was obvious he’d never heard of Poliça, and to be fair, before I received the announcement of this tour and the current album, I wasn’t aware of them either.
When I posted up the preview though, several people came forward and said I’ve got to go and see them live.
Doing a bit of google, I suspect they discovered Poliça either through a 2013 appearance on Jools, or perhaps via 6 Music who featured the current album as an album of the day.
I only ever watch Jools on New Years Eve, and it usually reminds me why I don’t watch it the rest of the year! On paper, it should be good – the BBC has ran the most influential radio stations in the UK since at least the early 70s. Jools himself was a presenter on the legendary, ground-breaking show The Tube.
But in reality, whilst Craig Charles infectious enthusiasm and genuine passion for the music he plays can make it appealing even if you’re not a massive funk and soul fan, Jools’s indifference towards the bands he has on, not to mention the over-the-top bellowing like a circus ringmaster and the irritating boogie-woogie piano, the seated audience and sterile studio setting means that even though he has a lot of good acts on, they often come across as quite dull.
6 Music I used to listen to daily. Indeed I bought a DAB Radio just to listen to it. I’m sure they used to playlist songs for a much shorter timespan, because I remember realising they hadn’t played a song for a while and going in search of it. But it got to the stage where they were playing the same songs so long I was sick of them and no interest in hearing them again. And then there are the annoying jingles and trailers – repeated over and over, as frequent and annoying as adverts for local car dealers on commercial radio. Why put myself through that when I can choose what music I want to listen to, ad free on Spotify?
I always think the BBC is a great concept – being able to experiment with new formats, without commercial pressures to make money – but it’s poorly executed – i.e. it doesn’t.
In the 80s when there were only 4 tv channels and the BBC was well funded and ITV franchises such as Thames were awash with cash – many of the TV programs that went on to be regarded my many as classics – Fools and Horses, Minder, Black Adder and so on, bombed when they were first shown. But because money wasn’t a big issue and they believed in these shows, they persisted and eventually the audience warmed to them.
Today, with so many TV channels competing for advertising, if a first series doesn’t instantly get the ratings then it’s scrapped – which means shows don’t have a chance to grow, having to go for the jugular far to early.
Likewise with music programming. Current wisdom is that people don’t want to watch actual music shows, so they come up with novelty crud like X-Factor, The Voice, Masked Singer and so on. Full of backstories and gimmicks rather than music.
I totally get that the BBC need mass-market high-ratings shows to get people to watch it’s channels. But as The Voice has proven – these shows don’t need the BBC’s funding model – they are equally as at home on ITV.
Imagine if the BBC threw caution to the wind and had a properly thought-out prime time music show featuring bands like Poliça – now THAT would be public service – and perhaps the next time I see them, the taxi driver would say “Wow, Poliça! When We Stay Alive is a cracking album!”.
Tonight’s show was an early start, with doors open at 7pm and the first band, Warm Digits on at 7.30pm sharp.
Warm Digits from Newcastle are label mates of Poliça and I’d heard good things about them – which was bourne out by their first tune of the night.
Sadly, technical problems meant gaps between songs as they tried to sort it out, and ultimately their set was cut short.
A real shame, but then their quality shone-through and I’m sure I wasn’t the only person in the room who’ll be watching listings for another chance to see them, hopefully without the technical gremlins this time.
Poliça took to the stage at 8.30pm and played a thrilling 90 minute set including encore.
Though I wasn’t previously aware of Poliça, when I received the video for “Driving” last year I was instantly hooked by Channy Leaneagh’s captivating vocals and the offbeat synth, not to mention the intriguing video.
and “Forget Me Now” sealed the deal! More mainstream I’d say, but a superb track nonetheless.
Live, I was not disappointed in the slightest. With 2 drummers, the sound is heavy on the percussion. There was never a dull moment in their 90 minute set.
Quite simply, if you get a chance to go and see them – do so, I doubt you will be dissapointed! Meanwhile go and check out “When We Stay Alive” and if you are new to them, then work your way through their back catalogue.
An excellent night!
(Review also appears in Live Music Pix)
Words + Pictures: John W. King