Live Review: Pom Poko + Orchards at Scala, Kings Cross

I’ve always liked The Scala, it’s a great testing ground for bands that have grown beyond playing in dingy basement venues or the back rooms of pubs (much as we love those places too) and can sometimes offer the last chance to get up eyeball to eyeball with a favourite band before everyone else catches on and they transition to spaces that make up in capacity what they lack in intimacy.  Judging by the way that we’re crammed in shoulder to shoulder tonight, Pom Poko, tonight making the step up from their previous London show at one of those beloved back rooms, The Shacklewell Arms, could be about to make that jump.

Before we get the chance to see why, we have the prospect of opening act Orchards, whose onstage (and frequently off it) enthusiasm and charming math-pop is bright and pleasant but doesn’t quite have the bite to fully engage the swelling crowd beyond a group of devotees (one of whom is announced as the proud owner of the first ever Orchards tattoo) that have gathered at the front of the stage.

Since we last crossed paths, Norwegian quartet Pom Poko have had a busy festival season and are currently engaged on a gruelling tour schedule that will see them play 34 cities around the UK and Scandinavia between October and December.  If it’s taken a physical or emotional toll, they’re not showing any signs of it as they bound about the stage, beaming with delight and looking constantly surprised at how many people have turned up to see them and just how well everything seems to be going.

Their surprise should not be shared by anyone who’s heard their 2019 debut album Birthday; a wondrous beast, whip-smart and slippery as it leaps from one idea to the next with reckless abandon.  And the tunes contained within it are even better when unleashed on a live audience, the energy flowing from band to audience and back again, with fan favourites ‘Follow The Lights’ and ‘Crazy Energy Night’ generating such electricity that if it could be harnessed we could use it to power the venue for a week.

A slight mid-set dip is perhaps to be expected in an hour-long set from a band only one album into their career, but is soon rectified as guitarist Martin Miguel Tonne hits one of the myriad pedals at his feet, the rhythm section of Jonas Krøvel (bass) and Ola Djupvik (drums) turn the beat on a sixpence and singer Ragnhild Fangel leaps across the stage, reigniting the crowd and they don’t let up until a closing encore.  As the band take a bow and we catch our breath, the only smiles bigger than the ones in the crowd are those onstage.  Catch Pom Poko now while you can still see those grins up close.

Review and photography by Paul Maps

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