One down, two to go -- and then about 60 or 70 more after that for Poliça.
Back from the first extended break of its action-packed five-year career, Minneapolis’ atmospheric throb-rock quartet hit the Turf Club on Wednesday night to kick off a three-show hometown run behind its third album, “United Crushers,” which drops Friday. The home stand will continue Thursday at 7th Street Entry and Friday at First Avenue. All three nights have long been sold out.
Hardly the playful, informal affair you might expect from a pre-release, underplay club gig, Wednesday’s show was very straight-ahead and business-like, seemingly with an eye for what lies ahead. Poliça has a full year of touring booked behind the new record, with dates set everywhere from Austin’s South by Southwest festival later this month to London’s Roundhouse and Paris’ Le Trabendo in October. Look for a local gig at the Fitzgerald Theater in May to be announced soon, too.
Instead of giving fans the proven favorites from its prior two albums, the group focused almost exclusively on the new record Wednesday, playing all 12 tracks in order. It seemed less like the band members were testing their own know-how of the new material, and more like they were testing the audience’s reaction.
On Poliça’s end, the new songs sounded as tight as the parking options outside the Turf before Wednesday’s packed show. Singer Channy Leaneagh made a comment near the end of the 75-minute performance that she had been feeling a little ill – “It might have just been nerves” – but there were no signs of ailment in her voice. In fact, she came through clearer than ever thanks to the way the new record strips away some of the layered electronic vocal effects of the first two albums, save for a few extra-murky montages such as the intro to the show/album opener “Summer Please.” The gorgeous, meditative ballad “Lately,” in particular, sounded like something Leaneagh might have sung with her old, electronics-free band Roma di Luna.
On the audience’s end, fans stayed admirably attentive through most of the new tunes, with only a couple exceptions. After the thrilling, hard-driving rush of the new single “Wedding” – which could be a show-closer at future gigs – the mid-tempo letdown of “Melting Block” was probably inevitable. Bassist Chris Bierden helped another slow-buzzing track, “Top Coat,” come alive in concert more than on record with his fuzzed-out, booming parts. The momentum peaked three-quarters of the way through the record with the album’s two densest and most freakishly arranged tunes, “Berlin” and “Baby Sucks,” when drummers Ben Ivascu and Drew Christopherson worked their synchronized chaos to the hilt.
The more political, protest-flavored lyricism of “United Crushers” was largely indecipherable in concert, but the theme at least came through in the more aggressive and terse musical tone. One song that did prove lyrically evocative was the ambient and melodic closing song “Lose You,” with the soured-romance refrain, “What is it called when he don’t trust at all / What’s to lose, what’s to lose? / Just you.” Not exactly a jubilant one to end on.
The band came back and did a more light-hearted encore starting with a wigged-out cover of Drake’s “Madonna” – reminiscent of the swaggering Keith Sweat tune they also used to play – and ending with its 2012 staple “Amongster.” Should Poliça opt to drop in other older songs as the year/shows roll on, it might have a hard time choosing which of the new ones to take out.