The Polyphonic Spree: Arts Club, Liverpool

The Polyphonic Spree - Arts Club - 15.09.15-22

The Polyphonic Spree’s Tim DeLaughter leading his congregation

With The Polyphonic Spree making a wholly triumphant return to Liverpool, Getintothis’ Paul Fitzgerald dusted off his kaftan and joined the assembled throng at the church of Tim DeLaughter.

15 years since the release of the first Polyphonic Spree album, The Beginning Stages…., the band are back in Liverpool to celebrate this anniversary with two sets of pure and pretty pop. With a stripped down line up of just 16 members crammed onto the stage in the Arts Club’s main room, the sound remains as glorious now as it did on its release in 2000.

They must’ve laughed when Tim DeLaughter first mooted the idea of building a 26 piece touring band around this joyous, sun worshipper of an album. If they did, they had no right, and tonight’s show proves why. Surrounded by the strings, the brass section, and the ubiquitous choir, DeLaughter takes centre stage, arms aloft, and with evangelical fervour and pure blissed out delight, he walks us through the entire album.

It’s a Tuesday night in September, but it feels like we’re tripping in the Texan sunshine, as each piece increases the joy, and the pure celebratory feel. More composed than written, these pieces (somehow, it feels wrong to just call them songs), and their symphonic, structured dynamics demand a band of accomplished players. The sort of musicians who know what the others are thinking, and can sonically finish each others’ sentences. After all, it can’t be easy to stand up, dancing and waving your head around like a maniac while simultaneously playing a cello, and singing. In a robe.

Harnessing the greatest moments of, The Beach Boys, ELO and Phil Spectors wall of sound, as well as the challenging chord progressions of Burt Bacharach or Arthur Lee‘s Love, Tim DeLaughter‘s knack of producing this gloriously filmic pop music is a wonder all of its own. The vision for a project of this size and scale is staggering, and the ability to carry it off as well as this creative cohort do is something to be admired. It’s The Sun, Soldier Girl, Reach For The Sun all rank high among the album’s most wonderful moments, and tonight they shine so, so bright. Truly, if real organised religion were this good, the pubs would be empty on Sundays.

After a brief break to de-robe and change into kaftans, (the band, that is, not the reviewer), the show continues with songs from second album Together We’re Heavy, and their most recent offering, 2013’s more freeformed and psyched up Yes Its True.

DeLaughter thanks the crowd with genuine gratitude, and thanks the band, naming each member, and finally thanks their Tour Manager, whose daily life on the road with a 16 piece battalion of groove merchants could surely never be described as easy. The evening comes to an end with a joyous, and stunning version of Nirvana‘s Lithium, with DeLaughter swamped in the bouncing crowd, arms aloft and afloat on a tide of worthy adoration.

Songs Of Praise has never been quite this good.

Pictures by Getintothis’ John Johnson.