Polo & Pan bring kaleidoscopic French dance pop to Bill Graham Civic Auditorium

Photo of Polo and Pan
Can Jozef Saul/Staff

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Polo & Pan don’t need an opening act; they’re an act of their own. On Feb. 4, the French dance duo began their show at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium walking onstage in matching white jumpsuits, orange and red stripes drawing a V from shoulders to midriff. The duo appeared a bit sterile, but they play EDM clinically anyway, and they started the show off easy. 

Synths stacked on synths, animations — bright and blocky — built on the screen behind them. At some point, they put the music on autopilot and started dosey doe-ing out front. Then they got back to mixing, put the bass on blast (a few people steadied themselves) and kicked off their set. By the end of the show, the audience might have thought of the group more like daredevils — the ones shot from cannons. Their jumpsuits remained spotless.

A cyclorama is, by one definition, “a cloth stretched tight in an arc around the back of a stage set, often used to depict the sky.” Alternatively, it’s “a circular picture of a 360-degree scene, viewed from inside.” Either interpretation could track as the namesake for Polo & Pan’s second studio album, Cyclorama, for which the duo is touring. Polo & Pan is all about transporting listeners — onto beaches, into Paris, back to the past and into the future. Their sound is an amalgamation of sounds from around the world, fettered with and distorted until it transforms into World music electronica. 

But, this is EDM all the same. The employee at the door might proclaim a box office stub is “old school.” Outside, hot dogs might be hawked alongside psychedelics. This is a band that wears its influences on its sleeve. They play live music such as LCD Soundsystem, with a jolt at the start and some club backing mixed into the milder hits. 

The frontman of LCD Soundsystem, James Murphy, said his group — which Polo & Pan cite — plays covers of their own work. Polo & Pan remix from the ground up onstage, risking blotchy, but not botched tracks. The French DJs know how to aim the bass at your skull, vocal cords, thighs and everything else, so that when the blip of silence hit at the break in “Feel Good,” the night’s first track, concertgoers grasped at air and waited for the next beat. 

It’s a trick that is repeated on “Attrape-Rêves,” when the percussion zips out every other beat and the crowd couldn’t keep their hands down. Polo & Pan know how to manipulate silence — “pausing for a second brings joy back into the music,” Paul Armand-Delille (Polocorp to Alexandre Grynszpan’s Peter Pan) told the New Yorker in 2018. They feed off of a crowd. Bill Graham, they said, is one of, if not the biggest venue they’ve played, complete with a sold-out crowd that stuck with the duo through some of their sleepier club mixes. 

Late in the second half — after “Rivolta,” “Dorothy” and “Tunnel” (minus Channel Tres) — they started to wave to the audience. Some misinterpreted the gratitude as a sign that the show was winding down and began to leave, only for the next track to start up. 

Polo & Pan have an endearing act (glee and suave in equal measure) with a sly, sometimes sultry undercurrent. Victoria Lafaurie, who provided vocals, appeared in a nurse’s outfit at the show’s onset, later returned in a robe befitting Grace Kelly, and eventually stole the show as a dancing disco ball during “Peter Pan” — a romantic slow jam of a closer. 

The hits were stacked at the end of the show: “Ani Kuni,” “Canopée,” “Magic” and “Nanã,” played in that order. The final performances were a whirlwind of Polo & Pan’s most popular work; it was crowd-pleaser galore. Cartoonish scenes and reimagined sci-fi scenes displayed behind the group, rendered in the duo’s minimalist animation style. They’re easy tracks to dance to, but they’re just as easy to close your eyes to. 

As one of the two lines on “Magic” goes, “It’s magic, you know.” The show similarly provided this magic, transporting fans from the sweat-stained floors of the auditorium to a place of sonic euphoria.

Contact Dominic Marziali at [email protected].