Why this publication neglected to review Youth Is Only Ever Fun In Retrospect, the debut from Reading quartet Sundara Karma which dropped last month, is beyond us. It is an intensely reviewable album. Packed with fun ideas, hooks and poetry, it was a refreshing take on youthful abandon that kept us warm through those cold first weeks of 2017. Now, with stellar supporting acts in tow, they arrive in Leeds on their sold-out headline tour.
Note that ‘sold-out’ here means ‘sold-out‘, as in all of the tickets were sold. In every show. When a tour sells out like this the guest list goes into fucking lock-down, meaning I had no +1, meaning I had to go by myself. Just me and a lot of drunk students. I looked like one of those sad dads you see at pop-punk gigs.
It’s Saturday night and the Stylus, an impressive mid-capacity venue in the depths of LUU, is absolutely rammed. I haven’t seen it this full since Westwood DJ’d our Freshers party. Off the bat this may be the most impressive docket of support bands I’ve ever seen. Opening act Palm Honey (who we like a lot) brought the psychedelic shrieks and Will Joseph Cook brought the pink guitars. I would have happily watched either one of them play an entire show, and the crowd seemed to agree.
A flurry of balloons from the dressing room announces the arrival of the Karma boys as they begin with album opener ‘A Young Understanding’. From there the hooks come thick and fast and the crowd know every chorus. It’s a proper rock show with all the accoutrements; pints go flying, girls get on their boyfriend’s shoulders, and at one point a blushing tech has to unhook a bra that’s landed on the mic stand.
Despite the cacophony of noise from band and audience, lead singer Oscar Pollock turns in a solid performance. His pinched cries and gangling stance recalls the odd-man showmanship of Robert’s Smith and Plant. I’ve heard this band compared to Springsteen, and while stand-out anthem ‘She Said’ has a ‘Born to Run’ feel to it, this is a band with one foot in the 70s. From the music to the hair to the flares. And given our nostalgia rarely reaches past 1982, it’s exciting to see a band experimenting with a different pallet.
It’s rare we tip bands for greatness but judging on their performances, the hype, and the music, these three bands are destined for big things this year. It’s rare that have an ensemble gig. But this was Sundara Karma’s night. It was their name on the ticket. They were absolutely untouchable on the stage. It was a faithful reflection of their debut with the volume pumped up, the pace quickened, but not at the expense of depth.