As a Texan transplanted into NYC, I have been around the Polyphonic Spree since their inception. During my commercial radio days, I was given the honor of being the first DJ on the planet to debut The Beginning Stages Of. At the time, there were only a handful of copies made of the CD, back when it was only considered a demo. I can still remember watching front man Tim DeLaughter’s eyes swell with tears as we played cuts off the CD and discussed the creation of this symphonic pop orchestra. This puts me in a unique position to review their concerts, as I have watched them grow from a local experiment into a worldwide phenomenon.
Last night at New York City’s Irving Plaza, The Polyphonic Spree blew the roof off the venue. Against a black and white backdrop with the word HOPE, the Spree entered the stage with their traditional colored robes. From that point on, they had the crowd eating out of their hands. What impressed me the most was the growth of their sound, adding unique sonic textures with their large arsenal of instrumentation. DeLaughter has finally harnessed the capabilities of such a large ensemble to create some powerful musical moments. The trumpet, french horn, trombone, and flute parts are now skillfully arranged. The Spree has learned to utilize dynamics, such as in their opener “A Long Day Continues / We Sound Amazed.” The song switches from a simple melody with violin, flute, piano, and harp, which then erupts into a brass and choral assault.
Their set was filled with songs from both Polyphonic Spree albums, including the new disc Together We’re Heavy. It seemed that every single soul in the building was jumping to “It’s The Sun,” “Hold Me Now,” and the crowd favorite “Hanging Around The Day.” The highlight of the evening was their performance of “When The Fool Becomes A King,” which is lyrically perfect for DeLaughter. Every member of this large ensemble is highlighted in one way or another during the twelve-minute song. By the end of it, the entire venue was shaking from both the power of the band and the enthusiasm of the crowd. Even Paul Simon, who was observing from the VIP balcony, seemed to be in awe. The Polyphonic Spree’s CDs are good, but those are nothing in comparison to their live shows. Say what you want about their simplistic lyrics and positive music. The world needs more bands like the Spree, spreading songs of hope instead of hate.
Catch the Polyphonic Spree on the MTV Video Music Awards this Sunday, August 29th.