‘It’s good to be back’ said Tim DeLaughter to the crowd of the El Rey Theater, at mid-show on Monday night. The theater was packed when the Polyphonic Spree’s white robes, displaying large red hearts in the middle, made their apparition on stage. I had seen them at the same place years ago, it must have been during their tour to promote their 2007 ‘The Fragile Army’ album and all this seemed so far away: after all the band hasn’t released an album since and I was wondering what had happened to them. But If you look at the Good Records website (the label own by DeLaughter), it looks like the band has been somewhat active lately, as two new singles ‘What would you do?’ and ‘Bullseye’ have been released via the label,… are they going to release their songs one by one in the future?
Anyway, It is often good to be back where you were a few years ago, time has passed and even though I rarely listen to the Polyphonic Spree these days (don’t blame me, there are so many bands!), you can never dislike what you have loved.
And it is a lot question about Love with the Spree, Love with a capital L is the center stage of their show, optimistically and unapologetically, the 15 or so of them preach love and love for hours on stage.
It would be easy to get cynical with this outpouring of goodness spread on the audience by a band that dresses up like a gospel choir and wants us to believe they all travel in a escaped-from-the-60s flower-power van (see the t-shirts they were selling). Haven’t we passed this since the cynical and grungy 90s? Doesn’t this type of love fest belong to our parents’ generation? The Polyphonic Spree don’t seem to think so and who would complain?
Tim DeLaughter opened the show by cutting a large heart-opening into the red curtain outstretched from one side of the stage to the other, then stepped through it, he did that before, but it works every time.
After this, it was a non-stop jubilation as they played their ultra-uplifting music for almost 2 hours! If you have never seen the large band on stage, you have missed a totally moral-boosting experience. I really think people attend a Polyphonic Spree show for the same reasons they would take an antidepressant, because I have rarely seen as many people as ‘high’ on the sound as the ones I saw on Monday. I know there were a few of them smoking weed too, and it may have helped, but most of them were truly wide-eyed, absorbed in the music, singing the choruses at unison all night long.
The setting, as always, was grand and great with horns, keyboards, cello, harp, flute at the top of the regular instruments, and even a choir of women given volume and depth to the melodies and harmonies. On stage, everyone moved constantly and fast, and the dynamism of the show was real and palpable, since they knew how to make an emotional connection with their public, more by the music itself than anything else. Some of their songs turned to be more epic than on the records, whereas others (in particular the new songs and there were a few) turned a little short, more poppy than euphoric glory, even darker and especially more contained than their first over-the-top-exhilarating numbers like ‘Light and Day’ and ‘It’s the Sun’.
But Tim Delaughter is a very loveable frontman from start to finish, theatrical and warm, always climbing on the amps, leaning on the crowd, spreading his arms as if he was the next redeemer, and trying to jump to the ceiling while singing songs about a light to follow, or a sun to reach. If the songs and the outfits transcribe a sort of religiosity, it is more about a religion of nature where the true gods are the sun and the trees, and the guidelines the light and the seasons.
They did an interesting cover of The Who’s ‘Pinball Wizard’, and I regret they did not have the time (?) to play the second cover scheduled on their setlist, Nirvana’s ‘Lithium’, because it is the perfect union, when you think about it, two polar opposites, the Yin and Yang of music.
Hold me Now
Light to follow
Who medley (cover)
Get up and go
What would you do?
When the fool becomes a King/Playgrounds
Together We are Heavy
Light and Day
We sound amazed
Lithium (Nirvana's cover not done)