Polo & Pan bring kaleidoscopic French dance pop to the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium

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Polo & Pan don’t need an opening act; they are an act of their own. On February 4, the French dancing duo began their show at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium by walking on stage in matching white jumpsuits, orange and red stripes drawing a V from the shoulders to the stomach. The duo seemed a bit barren, but they still clinically play EDM, and they started the show easily.

Synths stacked upon synths, animations – bright and blocky – built on the screen behind them. At some point, they put the music on autopilot and started doing up front. Then they got back to mixing, put the bass on full blast (a few people stabilized) and kicked off their set. By the end of the show, the audience might have thought the group was more like daredevils – those who were shot down by cannons. Their suits remained impeccable.

A cyclorama is, by one definition, “a fabric stretched in an arc around the back of a stage set, often used to represent the sky”. Alternatively, it’s “a circular image of a 360-degree scene, seen from inside”. Either rendition could be the namesake of Polo & Pan’s second studio album, Cyclorama, for which the duo is on tour. Polo & Pan is all about transporting listeners – to the beaches, to Paris, to the past and to the future. Their sound is an amalgamation of sounds from around the world, strung together and twisted until it turns into electronic world music.

But it’s still EDM. The employee at the gate might proclaim that a ticket stub is “old fashioned.” Outside, hot dogs could be hawked alongside psychedelics. This is a band that wears its influences on its sleeve. They play live music like LCD Soundsystem, with a jolt at the start and a bit of club backing mixed in with the softer hits.

LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy says his band – quoted by Polo & Pan – play covers of their own work. Polo & Pan remix from scratch on stage, risking smudged, but not sloppy, tracks. French DJs know how to direct the bass to your skull, your vocal cords, your thighs and everything else, so that when the silence fell on the break of “Feel Good”, the first track of the evening, the spectators gripped the air and waited for the next beat.

This is something that is repeated on “Attrape-Rêves”, when the percussion goes out every two beats and the audience can no longer give up. Polo & Pan know how to manipulate silence – “stopping for a second brings joy to music”, Paul Armand-Delille (Polocorp à Peter Pan by Alexandre Grynszpan) told the New Yorker in 2018. They feed on a crowd. Bill Graham, they said, is one of the biggest venues, if not the biggest, with a sold-out crowd that has stuck with the duo through some of their sleepiest club mixes.

Towards the end of the second half – after “Rivolta”, “Dorothy” and “Tunnel” (minus Channel Tres) – they began to greet the public. Some have misinterpreted gratitude as a sign that the show is ending and starting to go, only for the next track to kick in.

Polo & Pan have an endearing act (joyful and suave in equal measure) with a devious, sometimes sultry undercurrent. Victoria Lafaurie, who provided vocals, appeared in a nurse’s outfit at the start of the show, later returned in a Grace Kelly-worthy dress, and ultimately stole the show as the dancing disco ball during “Peter Pan — a romantic slow jam from a closer.

The hits piled up at the end of the show: “Ani Kuni”, “Canopée”, “Magic” and “Nana”, played in that order. The final performances were a whirlwind of Polo & Pan’s most popular work; it was crowd pleaser galore. Cartoonish scenes and reimagined sci-fi scenes displayed behind the band, rendered in the duo’s minimalist animation style. They’re easy to dance to, but they’re just as easy to get a blind eye to.

As one of the two lines of “Magic” says, “It’s magic, you know.” The show also provided that magic, transporting fans from the sweat-stained floors of the auditorium to a place of sonic euphoria.

Contact Dominic Marziali at [email protected].

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