Back to EVAC a week after my last visit, for a gig I was very curious to see how it would turn out. I had a few brief missions before the actual concert, first popping into Sound Food & Drink to pick up a copy of the latest issue of Boss magazine – subtitled “A Liverpool FC fanzine… football, music and the city of Liverpool”, which about sums it up, and the most recent Bido Lito, which had some reviews of Sound City in, that I read while enjoying a pint of Shipyard American Pale Ale in the Monro. I decided to go there for a pint as it would enable me to collect my new loyalty card from them, and they had a special offer on the bar snacks combined with Shipyard. I therefore can heartily recommend their pork pie!
I then had to go to Brink to get a refund on my ticket for Linda Perhacs who had been due to play at Leaf two days earlier, but had to cancel her (first ever?) European tour due to injury. Once I completed this task I just had enough time for a quick second pint in Bier before trying to catch the support act at EVAC. A bonus was being able to listen to the fabulous “Roxette” by Dr. Feelgood that was playing in the last pub.
MT were in full swing by the time I got into EVAC, and they presented an interesting sight and sound. Lead singer Michael had long hair and was wearing a sparkly jump suit, using phased vocals on some tracks. Gabby on keyboards looked like she probably has a small, special collection of healing crystals at home, but was loving bashing out her 80’s sounds. The guitarist looked like an Aussie I used to know called Chris, except with a well-coiffed muzzy. The drummer had a big beard and lots of hair, but no shirt, as is the way of many drummers.
Overall, they reminded me a little of The Darkness, but with a lot of the rock element surgically removed. They ended their set with the bouncy “Alpha Romeo”, a single that came out late last year, and possibly their best number.
After MT came a DJ spinning records from the stage, an old fella dressed up a bit like a pirate. Of course. His tunes included the fab “Enjoy Yourself” by Prince Buster. Whilst this was going on, a young woman in front of me proceeded to dig out a long white robe and get into it over the top of her otherwise ordinary clothing. I thought for a moment she might be one of the band as they had often worn something similar in their early days, including on the UK cover of their 2002 debut “The Beginning Stages Of…” LP, but no she was just a mildly obsessive fan.
The pirate fella then came down into the space between the stage and the crowd, where the photographers and bouncers hang out, in front of a long white sheet that had been stretched out across the front of the stage to obscure what was behind. He rang a bell, giving it the full town crier “oyehs” and then announcing the arrival of the main event in poetic terms by reading from a scroll, with audience participation, which got the already eager crowd buzzing even more. Suddenly, the white banner stretched across the stage had words appearing on it, spray painted from behind – “iends!” became “and friends!” and then “useland friends!”, and finally the well-received “scouseland friends!”. Then a pair of scissors cut through the banner to finally reveal The Polyphonic Spree behind.
They’ve been through scores of members, and had thirteen on stage for this show (though I have since seen two reviews stating there were fourteen, so I must have missed one…), quite a commitment from an American band coming over. This included four girl backing singers, trumpet, trombone and ‘cello. They’re (again!) not a band I know in great depth – my mate Kris espoused their benefits to me back at the time they were being loved by the NME, but I didn’t get round to getting their first album until a couple of years after it came out, and I’d then completely forgotten about them (probably much like the mainstream media). I bought their latest, fourth album “Yes, It’s True.” once I decided to go to this gig and was pleasantly surprised to find it nearly as good as the first one, which I have grown to love over the years.
Their ecstatic, symphonic, Magical Mystery Tour-era Beatles-heavy sound hit the spot with me, and the whole audience as far as I could tell from where I was. Lead singer Tim DeLaughter was a great cheerleader with Wayne Coyne-alike vocals, interacting a lot with the punters, and filming himself, the band and crowd on people’s camera phones. There was a bit of trying to encourage clapping along from the backing singers, and some spontaneous outbursts from parts of the crowd, but I was happy to forgive this heinous crime as it felt natural at this gig.
An early highlight was “Hanging Around” from the first album, with “Two Thousand Places” off 2004’s “Together We’re Heavy” then encouraging a mass singalong. Two simply fantastic cover versions featured in the middle of the set – firstly, The Monkees’ “Porpoise Song (Theme From Head)”, a psych classic from 1968 that sat squarely in The Polyphonic Spree’s sweet spot. I thought that the second cover might have been chosen especially for Liverpool, but have since discovered that they performed Paul McCartney & Wings’ “Live And Let Die” throughout the tour. I’ve seen Macca do this song at Anfield and in the Echo Arena, but the Spree’s version was probably equally as good.
The set ended with glorious versions of “Light & Day/Reach For The Sun” and “Soldier Girl” off the first album. I feared having to miss much of any encore as time was ticking on towards my last train, but after a brief burst of The Four Seasons’ “December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)” they said their lengthy farewells, leaving the crowd wanting more.
I certainly left feeling that I’d had a great night – there’s something special about a gig that doesn’t just live up to your expectations, but surpasses it. It’s left me seriously considering plugging the gaps in my Spree collection.
I went for my green Vertigo Records tee tonight, mainly because the swirly logo made me think of the psych element to The Polyphonic Spree. Oddly for such a (relatively) older audience, I spotted more than the average number of band t-shirts, including Neil Young & Crazy Horse (looking forward to seeing them at the Arena in July!), Black Sabbath and The Beatles’ “Let It Be”, as well as The Prisoner (but not The Prisoners…).