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Sundara Karma, O2 Institute, Birmingham - review

By Leon Burakowski | Music | Published:

Glam rock is back... or it will be if Sundara Karma have their way.

Sundara Karma

The flamboyant indie rockers from Reading made a visual impact at Birmingham's O2 Institute last night - almost as potent as their eloquent 21st century take on glam rock.

Clad in a leather bodice, shoulder pads and the kinkiest of kinky boots, singer Oscar Pollack looked like a cross between Ziggy Stardust and Frank N Furter from the Rocky Horror Show. For the encores he was back as a kind of pagan high priest. The rest of the five-piece contributed glitter, a floral patterned suit and other gear you will not find in Primark.

The music is also a mish-mash of influences but what wonderful ingredients, a hefty dose of Bowie, a pinch of Queen and a sprinkle of Pulp. On the song Symbols of Joy and Eternity I think I even caught an echo of The Brothers Johnson’s Strawberry Letter 23.

The young fans were moshing from the second song in for what was to be a 90 minute set. That was Flame from the debut album Youth Is Only Ever Fun in Retrospect , and the teenagers who made up the vast majority of the full house were doing their best to prove that title wrong.

Given their familiarity, it was no surprise that songs from the first album went down an absolute storm, particularly Loveblood and She Said. But songs from latest and second album, Ulfila’s Alphabet, are fast becoming favourites too, such as Little Smart Houses, Sweet Intentions and psych rocker Rainbow Body.

The band’s name is Sanskrit for Beautiful Karma and the title of the new album refers to a 4th century Greek bishop who created his own alphabet to translate the Bible. Those are hints that there is keen intelligence at work and Sundara Karma’s songs are among the most articulate you will find around these days.

Oscar’s Bowiesque croon on The Changeover and the band’s rock anthem, and show closer, One Last Night on This Earth, should alert older rock fans that this is a band worth listening to.

On bands worth listening to, support act Whenyoung have improved in stagecraft and confidence massively since I saw them supporting Peace nearly a year ago. They could even be on track to become an Irish equivalent to Wolf Alice.

Singer Aoife Power looked very demure in her floral dress with her gentle thank yous between songs, but wow, she could wail like a banshee (in a very good way).

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