#SRCZ Live Review // Polyphonic Spree @ East Village Arts Club, Liverpool 5/6/2014
I was on route from a meditation class. Sitting with my dharma chums before a golden buddha, I was on the verge of getting somewhere, but I had to cut short the session and catch a more immediate form of transcendence - the Liverpool return of The Polyphonic Spree.
If you are a musician, there’s a good chance that you will end up in this band at some point. In the early noughties they toured with twenty-plus members, and over sixty have passed through their ranks over the years. Fronted by vocalist Tim DeLaughter, the band creates an anthemic, uplifting sound enriched by horns, harp, strings, and numerous backing singers.
Tonight, inside a packed East Village Arts Club, a town crier appears at the front of the stage, reading an introduction from a scroll and instigating a pantomime call-and-response with the audience. It's a suitably wacky intro to an show that invites you to lose all inhibitions and participate in a collective experience.
A white screen is stretched across the front of the stage and shadowy shapes appear behind it. As the invisible band strike up, the words "SCOUSELAND FRIENDS!" are sprayed onto the banner from behind. A pair of scissors then appears and begins cutting the banner down middle, and suddenly there they are! A stage packed with musicians grooving animatedly as their leader twirls deliriously among them.
Favourites such as "Soldier Girl" are received ecstatically, DeLaughter interacting constantly with the crowd: conducting their singing, shaking hands and dedicating a song to one girls' eyes. Even with a slimmed-down line-up (tonight there are a mere fourteen musicians onstage), the Spree deliver an epic sound.
"Two Thousand Places" is a textbook Spree anthem: descending bass line, over the top arrangement, celebratory lyrics. Tonight it's expanded to eight minutes; towards the end, sustained chords surge out from the stage like waves of bliss, DeLaughter standing on the monitor speakers, his body face and body contorting in ecstasy, before they launch back into another celebratory chorus. DeLaughter's high, innocent voice is reminiscent of Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne, and their music inhabits a similar terrain of psychedelic positivity.
If one wanted to gripe, you could point out that many of their songs follow the same Beatle-esque template (specifically evoking "All You Need is Love") but the live Spree experience is neither tired nor contrived; the exuberance of the band inspire the audience who in turn feed the band. It's a positive feedback loop that threatens to lift the roof off tonight.
The audience are of a mixed age range, but there are a fair amount of white follicles in the house tonight, and one or two of the audience look like veterans of the hippie era. The Polyphonic spree is their church. For these faithful devotees, this was an overdue return, but more than enough to keep the spirit alive.
Reviewed by Thom George. (Check out his blog Tom George Arts)
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