Polo & Pan, live at Oval Space

Easy C, John and Cuzomano had a plan. It involved meeting up nice and early, eating a sumptuous dinner, and making it over to the gig in time to catch the support act. In reality, each of us left our money treadmills late and dinner amounted to hurried rounds of beer to get us in the mood while John tried to bake an inordinate amount of lettuce.

“Well, I’m here now,” said Easy C as we finally stood amidst the crowd at East London’s Oval Space, waiting for Polo & Pan to come on-stage. We had missed the support act and John, prone to hedonism, was doubling down on simultaneous Gins & Tonic with a beer chaser. It was Wednesday.

The three of us were palpably excited to see Polo & Pan – Paul Armand-Delille and Alexandre Grynszpan has been famously timid about performing live, despite becoming a burgeoning Spotify hit through the success of their sun-drenched, infectious French electro releases over the past 5-odd years (although it must be said that earlier EPs Rivolta and Dorothy stand out more than 2017’s LP, Caravelle). Unfortunately, it appears these two talented 30-somethings are being terribly mismanaged and must make haste to fix things, lest they want early slots on small festival stages to be the apex of their careers.

There is much whooping as Polo & Pan walk on-stage and the lights dim. Their first mistake is nearly immediate, as they take a moment to introduce themselves and say something about going on a trip with them, but simultaneously deflate the anticipation in the room right before they’ve started. It feels rookie for a band of their studio calibre and hype, and indeed, as the set opens there is baited breath in the audience as everyone is excited to listen.

It’s not good. 10 minutes into the set (which opened with excellent space-out intro track, Abysse), both Polo and Pan are mixing, chopping and changing as though catering for the Skrillex generation with ADD. No song is allowed to find its own rhythm before it is dramatically cut short and something new brought into the fray. At times, the performance is so sloppy that there is a distinct school disco vibe to the room, Polo reduced to being the Gym teacher to Pan’s gap year student. It gets more tedious, with faux displays of on-stage camaraderie backed by regal trumpeting landing on a tepid crowd, patiently hanging on for something good, but with little movement and waning interest. One can feel the air conditioning at Oval Space has been cranked up in anticipation of body heat, only to be proven unnecessary. John grimaces.

There are bright moments — when the duo truly perform, with either Armand-Delille or Grynszpan singing via vocoder or playing keyboards, the songs do take on more life. Unfortunately, it is consistently tarnished every time by a return to shitty mixing. At one point, probably the brightest spot in the show, Rivolta builds to what we anticipated might be a song allowed to get comfortable in its own skin. Nope — aware that this is their ‘hit’, our two Frenchies cut the track short for some tedious audience hyping, with hand-waving and shouts of “are you ready?!” while a camera crew get on stage to film ‘the big moment’ for Instagram, before dropping back into the same beat. Your three snobs in attendance audibly groaned out loud before finally calling it quits and leaving early.

And we weren’t the only ones. Stepping outside, a steady stream of people are pouring out the venue early, all looking bored. Peering through the window, one can see the crowd is barely dancing. John refers to the set as “bumper car music,” as we remark, somewhat amazed, that it’s amazing such a promising duo could defecate all over their own tracks in a live setting like that.

We conclude they are being badly managed. One can see where Polo & Pan are headed, but given where their first tracks suggested they could go, it is a great shame to see such underpromise from what could yet become a French electronic duo with a truly fresh sound. Our advice would be to stop playing live — the pair aren’t ready. They should perform their songs as tracks, with backup singers and instrumentalists, not this confused mélange of bad DJ’ing with intermittent performance, that – per their stage presence – it seems neither Armand-Delille nor Grynszpan enjoy either.

So, to our readers, give Polo & Pan a miss for now. They are truly not good live. To Polo & Pan, spend two years in the woods experimenting in the studio and come back to amaze us, supported by a tour more akin to Bonobo’s stage set up, otherwise the soleil really will be couchant on this duo isolé.