Sometimes a band comes across as a bit of a gimmick, a good one-trick pony. At first we thought The Polyphonic Spree were just this, a (large) collective with three albums of the same summery tunes. However, after being coaxed into going to see them, this londonista quickly changed his mind – they’re a force to be reckoned with, ensuring that whoever is around them can’t help but feel the summer is here.
Opening up the show, a town crier and his son introduced the band with a bit of pantomime-audience participation, before a red banner was draped across the stage whilst the entire band assembled in their places allowing “musical director” Tim DeLaughter cut a heart shaped window into the fabric. The band revealed, things got off to a flying start. The band have ditched their traditional choral robes for this tour, instead opting for army-style jackets, all with the “Fragile Army” logos on – the Spree have got Political.
Flowing into one continuous piece of music, the 22 member band managed to remain as tight as anything, with DeLaughter directing all the action throughout. Epic wasn’t the word, as they plunged through a setlist that would keep everyone happy: from the diehard b-sides fan through to those of us who only knew the classics. "Soldier Girl” was thrown into the set quite early, providing a chance for DeLaughter to come down to the front, and get generally mauled by the crowd. “Hold Me Now” saw mass hug-sessions from groups of friends, loving couples, and the just plain drunk.
All too soon, it was announced that it was time for them to go, slowly leaving the stage one by one until only the harpist is left remaining, and crowd are left chanting for more. Soon enough, the band emerge. In the balcony. In their traditional robes. Congo-ing along the balcony rows, they make their way down to the stalls and through the crowd, making it up to the stage one by one, security counting them in and the band launching into one hell of a jam. Soon, Tim emerges, crowd surfing his way to the front to launch into a cover of Nirvana’s "Lithium'" To some of you, this will appear to be sacrilege, however it was absolutely amazing – the lyrics shining through and the self-loathing of the song becomes ironic with the whole band in tow.
Soon enough the end is upon us, DeLaughter seeming genuinely touched by the crowds reception, wishing a light-hearted farewell: “I hope y’all can still remember how to ride your bikes – you’re gonna need ‘em with this bitch of a tube strike!”, and with the final flourish of an old Tripping Daisy song “Sonic Bloom” they were gone, in a flourish of colour.
Whilst we were coming down from the amazing high their show has given us, we had to admit: they’re no one trick pony: they’re a force to be reckoned with. Make sure you catch them next time they’re in the capital.
Photo from the author's own collection.