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SUNDARA KARMA Reach Nirvana at O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire

The Reading four-piece performs to a sold out crowd in London.

It is more than the possible allure of eastern religious vibes and Sanskrit naming that attracts the fans of Sundara Karma. Tonight at O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire they compassionately and eagerly receive both designated warm up acts, Palm Honey and Will Joseph Cook, before the heroes of the night enter the stage.

No introduction needed as the band delves headfirst into the opening track of their freshly released debut, Youth Is Only Ever Fun In Retrospect. A Young Understanding is in many ways a perfect opener, and as the cascading guitar-breach rains down on the crowd the bar is set for a night to remember.

Following up with majestic single Olympia, the Reading outfit breaks down any doubt you might hold against their musical skills. Their coherent and incredibly tight song structure simply flourishes, and backed with a magnificent light show and hoards of colourful balloons, the set in nothing but a bliss.

As the set progresses there’s a sense of youthful abandon in the air. The crowd, carefully guided by frontman Oscar Pollock’s magnifying persona, seems to be completely captured in the moment. You can barely even spot any of the ever-present smartphones that so commonly document concerts these days, a true quality stamp.

As Sundara Karma croon into bombastic love song, Vivienne the venue is on fire. The band and crowd seem to be in complete symbiosis. Barriers aside, there is a mutual understanding of what’s demanded from both sides, creating a sense of intimacy in the chaos. As the tune reach crescendo “Fuck it all and the rest”, the reckless romanticism peaks with Haydn Evans striking drum effort.

The melancholic feeling of nostalgia that manifests in Oscar’s vocals on soaring Lose the Feeling evokes a reflective sense of maturity. The duality of the cut’s retrospect and its immediate message is striking, coloured by loneliness of being in your own head. “For the salvation that I seek is trapped in the silence between my thought”, Oscar croons, and as the crowd reflects his words back at him it is clear that, right now, the entire room ‘don’t want to lose this feeling’.

With Ally Baty tantric riffs and Dom Cordell’s swaying bass, Indigo Puff conjures the darker twists of Sundara’s soundscape. “Thank you very much,” Oscar smirks, gazing over the sea of blissful faces. “This has probably been the best gig we’ve ever had”.

The feverish progression on She Said commands a sense of carpe diem, and this crowd certainly ceases the moment. Oscar Pollock’s stage presence is compelling as he punches out lyrical lines whilst channeling the vibes of Alex Turner and Mick Jagger in his dance moves.

The effervescent guitars on Deep Relief are infectious, and though the vocals sound at this point as slightly distorted, they soon clear. The familiar intro riff of Happy Family has the mass sing along, even before the entrance of Oscar’s vocals. Ally and Oscar are beamed up in the spotlight for their duet moment, and their vocal harmonies arouse goosebumps. Cue percussion as the cut mounts to bombastic proportions.

Having barely left the stage, the demand for an encore has the boys back within minutes. “We’ve got 2 more songs for you guys”, Pollock announces blissfully, as Sundara breaks into The Night, the pompous tune conveys the transcendence within Sundara Karma’s arrangements, proving the precision within each melodic turn.

“Thank you so much,” Oscar shouts before they end the concert with an absolute mayhem as they embark on Loveblood’s frivolous descant. People are moshing, making out and generally losing their shit displaying the prime of youth whilst hectically grasping every chord.

Through their live show, Sundara Karma add a sense of irony to their album title Youth Is Only Ever Fun In Retrospect, as the guitar riffs crash through the room, youth has never been more joyous than in those infinite seconds. The dripping honesty of their lyrical narrative hits beyond youth itself as I observe a girl and her dad equally engaged, and it is clear that Sundara Karma really have created something special.

Photos: Aurora Henni Krogh