Review: Sundara Karma at The 1865, Southampton

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Their sold-out gig at The 1865 was outstandingly impressive.

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Sundara Karma played to a sold-out crowd at Southampton’s The 1865 as part of their headline for their debut record, Youth is Only Fun in Retrospect, released earlier this year to critical acclaim. There was nothing retrospective about the fun enjoyed by the young crowd, who were whipped up in frenzy from start to finish.

Wisps of purple smoke flooded the stage and we were treated to some delightful jazz flute. Frontman Oscar Pollock was draped in the same velvet androgyny that once adorned Bowie and Prince – he couldn’t be anything else but a rock star. The quartet got the evening underway with a feverish rendition of ‘Young Understanding’ and the crowd just erupted with bodies thrown everywhere. The sun-kissed indie pop of Sundara Karma may not immediately suggest mosh pit (not least one you should lose your shoe in, not that I’d know anything about that…) but the band’s high octane energy just sweeps you off your feet.

The pace didn’t let up for ‘Loveblood’, another exuberant number complete with swirling guitar riff. Oscar prowled up and down the diminutive 1865 stage and conducted the crowd like a maestro with every flamboyant flick of his wrist. He loved a chinwag in between tracks, stopping to ask if anyone had seen them before, twice? Three times? Each time the crowd answered unanimously with yes – they’ve built quite a loyal following it would seem! The Karma quads followed up with ‘Flame’ another quietly intelligent song that manages to wax lyrical about Plato’s allegory of The Cave. Youth is Only Fun in Retrospect is littered with Shakespeare and Wilde but there’s nothing contrived about their sophistication, it’s ethereal and dreamy much like frontman Oscar Lulu himself as he floats around the stage like a velvety spectre. He leapt into the crowd for ‘Flame’s swirling crescendo, his spine-tingling vocals soaring high, blowing kisses to his baying audience.

‘She Said’ saw Sundara Karma at their boisterous, bombastic best. The opulent ode to the dance floor brought the 1865 to rapture. Incidentally, the 1865 recently merged with the Talking Heads and became one of their official venues, resplendent with a glittering disco ball. Disco ball aside the stage and lighting were kept quite plain but it mattered little thanks to Sundara’s energy. Their whirlwind set whizzed by all too quickly, with no time for their signature cover of Luther Vandross’ ‘Never Too Much’. A shame but their closing number ‘Explore’ more than made up for it. It smacks of Pulps ‘Common People’ and was more than worthy of the 1865 cavernous expanse.

Pollock ended the night asking if anybody knew of any after parties. What with freshers in full swing one can only imagine that Southampton was happy to oblige him.

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Im Freddie and Im a nerd. I go to as many gigs as I can because I love getting elbowed in the face to the sound of music.

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