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A review of...
The Polyphonic Spree live at Academy 2, Manchester
The Polyphonic Spree require no introduction, nor do they deserve one – what’s meant by this is that those who know their music or have seen them live know what they are in for; Those who have never heard or seen the band refuse them, in most instances, at the description of a jolly cult of travelling nutters, numbering somewhere between fifteen and fifty, who all wear dresses and sing brainwashing songs about trees and Jesus. This stance was in fact typified tonight night when speaking with one of the door staff who confessed the gig was ”not my thing at all. I’m really not looking forward to later on when i’ve got to be in the actual room”.
If you belong to the latter group (and there are many many of you), please take my advice and give The Polyphonic Spree a chance - what you will experience is possibly one of the last truly great live bands touring smaller venues in this day and age.
This isn’t going to be a track-by-track review, but it serves well to say the set list comprised of tracks from all four albums, and that the tracks from their most recent Yes, it’s True translate incredibly well in a live setting, particularly "Popular by Design" and "You don’t know me", both of which shone on their studio release but tonight felt more expansive and more inclusive than they are on an album which, whilst great, does see the Spree exploring more traditional song structures and themes than they had done in previous releases. Covers included (Spree’s legendary rendition of "Live and Let Die" was a highlight, as was the Monkees "Porpoise Song"), the set lasted about an hour and fourty-five minutes with no break.
And it was Amazing!
Comparisons with bands such as Arcade Fire and The Flaming Lips are inevitable, but the Spree is something entirely different – Huge in numbers, yes, but Gigantic in heart and with genuine connection to fans and new-comers. Where AF are po-faced and overly serious, and TFL rely on a kind of distanced spectacle, the Spree are that band who invites you into their circle, who are somehow able to plant a spark in the hearts of each and every audience member then make it grow to the point of bursting - and burst we did, through our voices, our smiles, our eyes and our finger tips. It helps of course that the band are clearly loving it too, and whilst it would be easy to single out band-lead Tim Delaughter - who at one stage, sat right in the middle of the crowd, invited us all to get low with him and build to the joyous celebration of "Diamond Rings/Majesty" – each and every one of tonight’s 16 musicians and vocalists are on fire, they can play, they can sing, and as a unit they are incredibly tight, however it’s the community on show tonight which is the real highlight.
Not enough can be written about this band and tonight’s performance to implore you to catch them at the earliest possible opportunity. Look, they possibly make no sense from the outside looking in; but entry to this requires nothing whatsoever than the willingness to discover. Just do yourself a favour and have a little peek through the window.
That doorman i mentioned earlier – we clocked eyes about two-thirds through. He was beaming, and gave me a knowing nod. Yes, it’s True.