Live Music + Gig Reviews

The Polyphonic Spree @ Astoria, London

3 September 2007

The Polyphonic Spree Tonight is more than just a live set. The Polyphonic Spree take us through a journey of highs and lows, of tension and release which involves theatre, politics, 21 people and a pinch of Nirvana.

“Oh Yay, Ooooow Yay,” shouts the town crier, while a kid rings a bell, as he introduces the Spree with a speech about peace and The Fragile Army, which, by the way, is the name of their new album. It has been two years since we last saw the Spree in London, and so far nothing about the structure of their set has changed. Will they be the same brightly dressed, robe-wearing, sun-worshipping hippies that they were loved for back in 2005?

Our anticipation builds as a red banner stretches across the stage, hiding the band as they take to it. Scissors begin to slowly cut through the material in the shape of a heart, then down comes the banner, and out comes… My Chemical Romance. What is going on? Have The Polyphonic Spree just hit their troublesome teens, or are they going through an early mid-life crisis? Lead singer Tim Delaughter now has black hair, along with the flute player, and all twenty one of them are wearing black army outfits with a red cross on them.

We know this outfit was about anti-war, helping, loving and all that is moral, yet the audience stood stunned, finding it hard not to feel slightly disheartened. Now we look to the odd audience member wearing a white robe with nostalgia. Ah well.

The band began with their new single, Running Away. They sounded fantastic as ever, but something about it just didn’t feel right. Perhaps we would have enjoyed it more with our eyes shut? As they began to play songs from their debut album, The Beginning Stages Of…, the crowd seemed to be working through the shock of the band’s new look, gradually embracing the change.

As Tim Delaughter put it, “Let’s do this one campfire style” as he sangIt’s The Sun alone, sitting on the edge on the stage. Nice idea, but this track needs the chorus of singers most out of all their songs. The audience did attempt to sing the backings. He later dedicated a new song to President Bush. Everything was a lot more sinister this time, as the Spree have considered the political evils of society in their new album. This time they’re trying to be realistic. Without sadness, happiness does not exist, right?

So we had been introduced to a new kind of Spree. But if their new style was not to your liking, the encore brought back the old cheerful band that put a smile on everyone’s faces. They walked through the crowds, wearing those same white robes they had done in The Beginning Stages Of… days. Tim Delaughter crowd surfed his way onto stage and told us to sing along.

And here came the highlight of the show as the band stunned us with a cover of Nirvana‘s Lithium. The entire audience went wild. The second half contrasted with the first as the band went on to play old songs. The encore was where it all really began, and once this was over, the town crier announced that we are “The Fragile Army” and the audience begged another encore. One last song and everyone went home enlightened with a Polyphonic spring in their step.

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