By Archie Best
By the time Channy Leaneagh, the diminutive lead singer to Minneapolis based Polica, takes the stage the crowd are becoming restless. Between the warm up act, Barbarossa (piratical load of Pugwash) and Leaneagh’s arrival, someone managed to sneak backstage and force the captives in the Empire to listen to offensively inoffensive R&B – unsurprisingly this was not going down well with the verging on middle-age-despite-their-best-efforts-type punters who moved to Stoke Newington to escape from such musical banality.
After a collective groan of relief at her appearance, Leaneagh’s repeated almost apologetic confessions of nerves only heightens the atmosphere. Sandwiched between two imposing drum sets on raised platforms, and in an oversized coat, the effect is underwhelming. “I don’t think I’m nervous before I go on but now I think I am,” she whispers, blaming the size of the crowd for her anxiety. The last time Polica played in London was to a handful in the cramped CAMP basement.
Luckily, the packed Empire wasn’t going to pre-judge their new flavour of the night, and it soon became clear why everyone sat through the R&B; Polica are great. Two drums sets is a masterstroke, and particularly effective in the hypnotic ‘Wandering Star’ and the (relatively) upbeat ‘Happy Be Fine’. Leaneagh’s presence on stage may have been awkward, but her blissfully unselfconscious dancing and evocative vocals finally put an end to any lingering doubts.
Apparently they called themselves Polica because they thought it meant warning in Polish. It doesn’t. It means insurance policy document. Since Give you the Ghost, Polica’s acclaimed debut, they have been forgiven for the mix-up, and they are increasingly aired on BBC Radios 1 and 6. ‘Wandering Star’ is already one of the NME’s 20 best songs of the year, and is the third single from the album.
Given this performance they need to get used to large, restless and wildly expectant crowds, and soon. Anyone know Polish for headliner?