Live review

The Polyphonic Spree
Liverpool Academy, Liverpool : 11.7.2003

Waiting for the dependably dramatic stage entrance of The Polyphonic Spree, I can't help but notice the tingling atmosphere of ecstatic anticipation as the crowd hums and jostles, straining their necks to catch the first glimpse of the radiantly white-robed 23 piece ensemble. At this point, you should lay aside your preconceptions, because nothing you will read can prepare you for the riotously jubilant ride you are about to experience. If we take the old adage that 'the whole is greater than the sum of the parts', and then realise that the sum of the parts alone is pretty impressive, you soon realise that this isn’t going to be 'just another gig' . . . this is The Polyphonic Spree, and you’ve never seen anything like it.

The stage darkens, the crowd simmers expectantly . . . then swells to a rapturous applause as the 22 band members bounce onto the stage, in reciprocating rapture, as though they'd waited all their lives for this moment, this performance. Finally, lead man and conductor extraordinaire Tim DeLaughter enters the scene, and with outstretched arms he embraces his audience with his instant charismatic magnetism, drawing us in. Grinning and shining in his angelic robes he kicks off the musical celebration. His message is simple, and yet we’re all singing at the top our lungs as though it’s the anthem of our lives: "Hey! It's the sun . . . and it makes me shine!"
Texan based symphonic pop sensation The Polyphonic Spree defy simple categorisation and delight in breaking every musical genre, preferring to see themselves as 'a musical experience' rather than a common or garden band. Take a bit of The Flaming Lips, add some Mercury Rev (on happy pills), stir in some Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and mix well. Chuck in the odd horn concerto and a gospel choir, sprinkle liberally with Beach Boys enthusiasm, and try to imagine that you’re in a sunny field, and you’re almost there.

"A polyphonic spree is amazing!" pants DeLaughter with childlike wonder, halfway through the set, "I wish you could all start one!" And you believe him, and wish quite sincerely that you could, before remembering that you wouldn't possibly have time. Getting a 23 piece act - with an entire orchestra's worth of musical instruments, and enough robes to completely re-outfit the Vatican - on the road and moving from one venue to the next must require the logistical organisation of a small army. And yet they do it, and manage to perform each time as though it's their first, and last ever show.
    "I just think it ’s a form of celebration," says DeLaughter, and he's right. But it’s much more than that. The Polyphonic Spree look something like a Woodstock remnant – cryogenically frozen and then reanimated some 30 years later. They are the Austin Powers' of rock. Their mission? To put the life back into live performance and give the tiresome world of rock a much needed defibrillation of enthusiasm. They are the musical antidote to a pessimistic, monotonous, cynicism-ridden society. Their songs are infused with wild optimism, and they perform with euphoric energy which consumes the audience, making converts out of critics, and followers out of fans.
    After a bit of reckless head-spinning, induced by their new single Soldier Girl, and the harmonious, collective chorus of 2,000 Places - "You gotta be good! You gotta be strong! You gotta be 2,000 places at once!" - you can't help but feel that you've been a part of a spiritual experience, and life definitely seems better as a result.

Every single member plays with a passion and almost orgasmic joy and energy that rivals any other live performance you're ever likely to see. I've never known a group to have more fun than the audience, and this was one happy clappy, fun-lovin' audience! When was the last time you were at a gig where the band changed 23 costumes before the encore and ended their set with a melodious harp solo? Exactly . . .
    In short, The Polyphonic Spree live are a thoroughly engaging, multi-sensory, supersonic experience that will leave your ears ringing with wonder and your face aching from impulsive, incessant grinning.

:: Tom West

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