Polyphonic Spree Crescent Ballroom Thursday, March 29, 2012
At 10 last night, a long red sheet covered the stage of the Crescent Ballroom. The crowd was getting drunk, and when the lights were dimmed, the theme song from The Little Rascals played over the speakers. For some strange reason, it was perfect, and the crowd loved it. Within a few moments, a pair of scissors cut a heart shape out from the middle of the red sheet, large enough for Polyphonic Spree's lead singer and musical director, Tim DeLaughter, to stick his head through, and smile at the crowd. He wasted no time cutting the rest of the sheet, and the drunken patrons of the Crescent were shown the thirteen person ensemble which makes up Polyphonic Spree.
They started immediately after the sheet hit the ground, and began with "I'm Calling." DeLaughter was incredibly enthusiastic and energetic as he conducted every member of his orchestra with the songs pickups and slowdowns. The Spree was dressed in white choir robes with red hearts sewn in the middle, and consisted of a horn section, two guitarists, two drummers, cello, keyboardist, four background singers, and DeLaughter using his musical precision to keep every one of them in perfect time. I have seen this band online, but it did not do them justice in the slightest. The energy they project from the stage is like musical Prozac for the soul.
They transitioned effortlessly and with little musical breaks into "2000 Places," followed by "Hold Me Now." The backup singers on the raised platforms in the back rocked back and forth in unison to the beat of the song, and DeLaughter went to and from every edge of the stage and on top of each of their amplifiers, almost falling over forward and into the crowd a few times. The vision of the stage was similar to that of a Baptist choir, but the music shaking the floors was a religion all its own.
The band brings their own light show on tour with them, and their leader directs the lights and the fog just as much as he does the musicians. It was quite a spectacle to watch him signal to the back to add and dim light and at the same time keep the music on course with his other hand. His vocals were on point and as pleasant as the upbeat message they are meant to exhume.
Before the band went into "Light to Follow," DeLaughter recognized the fans in attendance and shared that they took showers at the YMCA downtown earlier in the day: "We were at the YMCA showering with some old men, and I gotta say, you guys have some interesting looking packages in Phoenix." His banter was funny, his energy was hypnotizing, and his passion for the music they were creating was unprecedented with anything I have ever seen live.
They shocked me personally when they went into a "Who Medley," highlighted by an exuberant rendition of "Pinball Wizard." This was the point of the show where DeLaughter was used his musical composition skills to direct the crowd just as much as he was each and every member of his robed crew on stage. He stood high on an amplifier and raised his hands to the sky, and was telling us when to sing and how loud. This was also around the time that he grabbed my notebook and graciously signed his initials right after biting down and leaving his teeth imprints on the sheet of paper I was using to take notes on.
Aside from instructing the crowd on their musical accompaniment, he also included them by getting off the stage and walking halfway down the cement floor of the ballroom and getting on his knees to belt the lead vocals to, "Playgrounds." My previous perception was that Polyphonic Spree may be some sort of cult, but even if they are, I would be one of the first ones to jump on board to be apart of whatever it is Tim DeLaughter is serving up to them. Judging by the crowd last night, I don't think I would be alone, either.
The band waited to play their most widely known song, "Light & Day," until the encore, which consisted of four songs. DeLaughter gave a proper goodbye wave to every member of his band, one by one, and directed the crowd to wave to them as they would set down their instruments and walk off stage, as the lyrics to "Championship," were harmonized by most everybody in the room.
The show opened with Sweet Lee Morrow. He is the keyboardist on tour with Polyphonic Spree, and sat down at the front of the stage for the opening set with his baby blue acoustic guitar. I spoke to him prior to his set, and besides his good manners, he is an exquisite musician. He sang ten songs, and each one was lyrically driven, and worth checking out.
Last Night: Polyphonic Spree/Sweet Lee Morrow/New Fumes at the Crescent Ballroom
The Crowd: 20 and 30 somethings ready to drink and have a good time. Very pleasant
Overheard in the Crowd: "Can you sign your guitar pic for me?" (To Sweet Lee Morrow) "Uh, I wasn't using a pic."
Personal Bias: I watched some videos and knew of them because of my brother. I'm getting as much of their stuff as I can now, and I'm looking into the opening act, Sweet Lee Morrow as well
Random Notebook Dump: My shit was bitten by Tim DeLaughter
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Piano Intro I'm Calling 2000 Places Hold Me Now Light to Follow Bulls-eye Who Medley Soldier Girl Get Up and Go Running Away What Would You Do? King/Playgrounds
TWH Light & Day We Sound Amazed Championship