Caroline Polachek brings her full creative vision to Franklin Music Hall - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

Caroline Polachek has been a fixture of the music scene for almost two decades now, fronting her own indie pop group Chairlift in the 2000s and writing for the likes of Beyonce and Travis Scott. But in 2023 she released her masterpiece, Desire, I Want To Turn Into You. The twelve-song journey plunges you deep into a world of Polachek’s design. The opening tune, “Welcome To My Island,” sets the tone with pleasantly-pitched screams, dance beats, and themes of sensuous longing. Desire‘s cover artwork mirrors all this, as Polachek crawls on her knees on the floor of a city bus towards hallucinatory sun-warmed sand.

And appropriately, “Welcome” was the song with which she opened her Franklin Music Hall set. It was the first night of Polachek’s SpiralingTour, and Philly was more than receptive. On Instagram, the pop singer noted the crowd was even louder than the band, according to the venue’s decibel reader. All of us fans had been waiting since Valentine’s Day (when the record was released) — and even earlier, as singles from the record trickled out over two years –0 to feel the catharsis of dancing and singing along to her impeccably crafted hype-songs.

Caroline Polachek | photo by Paige Walter for WXPN

Polachek has only two albums under her own name including 2019’s Pang, so her set mostly consisted of songs from Desire. Everything from the set design to her costuming were maximized for theatricality. Along the backstage, her team had constructed the silhouette of a tall mountain range, and behind that was a dense LED screen that displayed changing visuals. During “Crude Drawing Of An Angel,” for example, three cross structures caught fire and slowly burned to ashes.

While I missed some of the finesse from the recorded version of this collection of songs, like the bagpipes feature on “Blood And Butter” or the child choir echoing the refrain on “Billions,” the live versions were still far superior. Polachek’s vocals were unbelievably powerful, her movements made full use of the large stage, and the live band stood out on songs like “Fly To You,” which I imagined was recorded with an electronic drum beat, but was proved wrong after witnessing an impeccable performance by her touring drummer behind the kit.

Caroline Polachek | photo by Paige Walter for WXPN

As an artist who’s outspoken about the difference between art and entertainment, Polachek stands out among pop artists for her world-building and the nuance she brings to the genre, a sweet spot she’s described as “some kind of underground hyperloop between hackney and Hollywood.” Her fantasy world enveloped the culty crowd, who I might add, were relatively polite for the packed shows I’ve attended at Franklin Music Hall.

Opener George Clanton warmed up the stage for Polachek with his own electronic rumblings. He’ll be with the Polachek crew until they hit Austin, TX on the 24th and welcome Toro y Moi. Sudan Archives, Magdalena Bay, Alex G, and Ethel Cain round out the rest of the impressive openers on the SpiralingTour.

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