Live Review: Sundara Karma – Liverpool

Sundara Karma

o2 Academy Liverpool, 12th February 2017

Words: Gary Lambert
Photos: Elena Katrina

sundara karma elena katrinaAn older audience can be a sign that a young band has had a healthy amount of airtime and the right people saying that they are a band to watch, but in the words of Tom Ogden at a Blossoms gig downstairs in this same building eighteen months ago, “when the kids are turning up in numbers, you know something exciting is happening”. Something exciting was very much in the air on this particular cold February Sunday night. From the moment I saw the massive queue outside for people to collect their tickets until the house lights went on, Sundara Karma’s fans provided everybody, of all ages, with a buzz. I cannot remember the last time I saw a fully blown moshpit for the support acts at an Academy gig. Especially when the support acts aren’t even “Surprise Guests” trialling a few new songs and a couple of old hits. It didn’t even have the Lad Bible aura of banter, pyro and cartoon threat.


This was a celebration of youthfulness. And I’m sorry to the headliners, but youth isn’t only ever fun in retrospect. Tell that to the teenagers throwing away their t-shirts because the sweat of the pit reacted with torture at hit of the cold winds of Hotham Street. Or the group of friends standing their in shock as two of their friends started kissing each other at the end of the gig (nobody was expecting that as they waited by the stairs going on the “WTF” whispers and bulging eyes). Or the lads and girls who rotated at the back of the venue, taking a breather before hurtling themselves back towards the front. Even the odd chaperone moved from small talk with their counterparts to edging closer to the front, dragged by the power of Sundara Karma. And as with their last gig in Liverpool, part of the crowd for Sundara Karma was made up of The Night Café, arms aloft, singing along.


the night cafe elena katrinaThe Night Café were the first recipients of the buzz provided by the fans of Sundara Karma. I am definitely a fan of The Night Café. I love how naturally Scouse they look, and how they mix the traditionally opposing elements of post-nineties Liverpool bands with the cosmic jangle acting as a current to propel the pop staple sound along. I would seriously recommend that you take the time to listen to them. And do it more than once too. There is so much more at play than the ability to write and sing a tune. They remind me of the Scally music nerds you see trying to convince their mates that Love’s Forever Changes is the greatest album of all time whilst hanging on street corners terrifying pensioners with their ability to stand there. The crowd bounced and sang along with them throughout the set so much that I had to check Spotify out to see if they had anything on there. How was I to know that they had two tracks with over half a million streams each? To put that in context, Sundara Karma fan favourite She Said has 1.8 million streams. It’s pretty impressive.


blaenavon elena katrinaWhilst the venue was about 80% full for The Night Café, for the arrival of Blaenavon, it must have moved up to about 98% capacity. Blaenavon, whilst a firm favourite of Popped Music, had not done too much to impress me beyond a firm appreciation of their music ability. That changed at this gig. Starting off with what my notes describe as Rock God Yoga, the two guitarists (Frank Wright – bass; and Ben Gregory – vocals and guitar) stretched and made quasi-Slash moves whilst Harris McMillan on drums gave them a beat to reach a higher power through. It was a little bit odd, but made sure that once they kicked off properly every audience member had had their attention pricked. Blaenavon pack a hell of a punch live. My expectation had been for well crafted songs and a nod of appreciation, but as I looked out across the audience I could see people bouncing around six or seven deep. Cleverly the band took a moment of calm to tell the audience as to when they would be able to find them playing in Liverpool next, and you could see the date being entered in mobile phones. That gig will be at Studio 2. It’s technically a jazz club, so come ready to mosh and show jazz what real music is.


Now to the headliner, Sundara Karma. With the recent release of their debut album, the band have been able to step up to full Academy-sized venues rather than that awkward-to-describe-size slightly smaller by a couple of hundred people. Their rise in part has been due to that release, but also they have thrown themselves into the live scene in a wonderful fashion. As well as playing often, they have developed a performance standard that mixes the styles of glam rock, traditional rock and anthemic, stadium fillers. And always the performance is high class.


sundara karma elena katrinaThis time the glam rock was toned down, and stupidly handsome band showed that they and their fans are there ultimately for the music rather than over exercised teenage hormones. Don’t get me wrong, there were more than enough teenage girls at the front to make you think of a Smash Hits Poll Winners Party. But there was no posturing or toplessness from Oscar (even when they played over 18’s venue The Magnet, he spent most of the evening looking like Iggy Pop with his shirt missing). But as soon as the music started the already lively audience became a writhing, bobbing mass together. I couldn’t believe how far back the pit went. Practically underneath the balcony, friends had their arms across each other’s shoulders and were bouncing in unison. Groups of fans were parting like the Red Sea in order to rush and slam into their opposite charger. Such scenes are meant to happen at Leeds and Reading, not for an indie band in Liverpool on a Sunday night.


I am still eternally grateful that Sundara Karma have not yet had that song that catapults them from being known by music fans to being known by everybody who watches sport on TV, or catches local commercial radio for half an hour a day. But that does not leave a gig without big moments. The performance of the afore mentioned She Said was fantastic and produced a mass singalong, and as the band and their balloons returned for a finale, Luther Vandross’ classic Never Too Much got the whole place going. And the finish of Loveblood seemed even louder than anything else they blasted us with. For me though, the performance of Vivienne was the most powerful moment of the night as it allowed the quality of the entire band to shine.


Before we finish, I have to give a nod of recognition to the strange, but successful record selecting between Blaenavon and Sundara Karma. Despite the crowd being energised with rock, it was decided to turn the night towards a family party circa 2006 with choice picks like Spinning Around, Mambo No 5, and Hey Baby. All we were missing was the Cha Cha Slide. Fortunately, each cheesy number was greeted with cheers, loud singing and dancing.


Anyway, if anybody wants to know how Sundara Karma connect with their fans, I’d say it is said best by the first track on their debut, A Young Understanding. Try and make sure that you get into the mindset too as the future is looking a lot of fun too.

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  • About Popped Music

    Popped Music has been going since Feb 2010.

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