Live Review: Caroline Polachek @ The Forum

11 December 2023 | 2:23 pm | Michael Prebeg

Caroline Polachek stuns at the first night of her sold-out Melbourne debut.

Caroline Polachek

Caroline Polachek (Supplied)

More Caroline Polachek More Caroline Polachek

A clock flashes up on the screen to tease us as it counts down from sixty-seconds before Caroline Polachek arrives and the audience is officially greeted with Welcome to My Island – the opening track to her sophomore album Desire, I Want To Turn Into You. The stage is lit up in a bright burning orange with a volcano cut-out backdrop to set the scene with theatrical flair for her ‘Spiralling Tour’ presented by ALWAYS LIVE.

“I’ve heard about you because I was on a train to the beach in August and I got a text from my manager saying, ‘We sold out Melbourne’ and I was like, ‘Didn’t it just go on sale?’ But I didn’t sell it out, you guys sold it out and here we are,” she exclaims.

It’s her first-ever show in Melbourne performing as Caroline Polachek. She has visited us before as one half of the American synth-pop band Chairlift, but since branching out as a solo act on her own, she finally makes her debut before us tonight. Wearing a burgundy off-the-shoulder latex leotard, Polachek moves around the stage with dazzling interpretive dance and occasionally spinning around in circles.

We sing with her on the atmospherically flamenco anthem Sunsets but cannot even come close to hitting the incredibly high-octaves she reaches with her unwavering falsetto that is so pitch-perfect it could shatter glass. “At one point you were so loud, I could her you more than the band,” she says to the audience who try and keep up with every note.

Polachek is a powerhouse, and her live show is a work of art constantly pushing the boundaries of pop music that she twists into new shapes with her visionary and unique style. A wave of energy takes over the crowd as she soars through her captivating songs Hit Me Where It Hurts, Ocean Of Tears and super-sassy Bunny Is a Rider. The backdrop changes colours and a flickering strobe punctuates the distorted beat on her latest track Dang.

“Are there any artists here tonight? She asks. This next song is about drawing someone non-consensually. Someone who is asleep and wakes up not realising they’re being observed,” she reveals about her song Crude Drawing Of An Angel. Polachek showcases her incredible vocal talent with ethereal light and shade in the perfect delivery of power and restraint full of euphoric emotion.

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter

Polachek dedicates I Believe to the late Sophie and her collaboration with Dido (Fly To You) is mixed in with her favourite Dido song Thank You as a tribute. Her angelic vocal performance is flawless and her falsetto pierces through the clouds, taking us to an otherworldly stratosphere.

“So, because I didn’t get to tour Pang in Australia, I want to throw it back for a second,” she says before singing the title song from her debut album of the same name. The audience screams with excitement to finally hear the track live after so long and we’re entranced by her and captivating stage presence.

Polachek stops for a moment as she notices a goose puppet show happening in the audience. She calls to bring them up to the stage to get a closer look at the goose show. “We’re here because we love the arts and we’re also here because we love dreaming that’s what this next song (Parachute) is about.”

Polachek continues her interpretive dance as she begins plucking imaginary things out of the air to the snapping sound effects in the intro of Billions and pretends to release them like butterflies flying out into the audience. Swirling imagery draws us deeper into her melodramatic and mesmerising performance.

“Are there any self-sabotages here tonight? This song is for all of us here tonight who make it pretty hard to be loved sometimes because we don’t listen to what they’re actually telling us. This song is for those who tell ourselves to shut up and sing.” She continues with one her of her most honest and personal tracks, Caroline Shut Up.

Viral hit So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings is the last song before the encore, and everyone dances along to the fun upbeat track that sees inflatable bananas being thrown around in the mosh pit. The crowd is energized by the hyper indie-pop tune and cries for more.

“This has been really special. I’m going to do a very spiritual one right now. I know I’m wearing a shiny red bodysuit but that’s spiritual too,” she says as she returns after a short break for an emotional performance of Hopedrunk Everlasting and Door. Polachek proves just why she is one of the most beguiling artists in the world right now and nothing is stopping her living and breathing the future of pop.