''What a night!'' Tim
DeLaughter shouted several times over the course of the Polyphonic Spree's
packed show at Metro on Friday. ''What a night!''
Even setting aside the manic frizzy-haired Texan's penchant for gleeful
hyperbole, it was hard to disagree.
Fronting 14 musicians and a 7-piece choir--a veritable mini- orchestra--DeLaughter
jumped, bounced and cheered his way through a celebratory 90-minute set that
imagined the Beach Boys' classic ''Pet Sounds'' crossed with a smattering of
'70s ''sunshine pop'' a la the Association, a bit of ''god rock'' in the
mold of ''Jesus Christ Superstar,'' and a fair amount of late-era Flaming
Like Oklahoma City's Lips, the Dallas ensemble pairs an almost absurd
musical ambition with a lyrical outlook that is defiantly optimistic.
''Hey now, it's the sun/And it makes me smile!'' DeLaughter and the choir
sang in the opening number (reprised again at the end of the night, by which
point even the most jaded hipsters at Metro were singing along at the top of
But where the Lips rely on digital backing tracks to deliver their
orchestral parts, the Polyphonic Spree creates its "ork pop" live, one
rolling crescendo after another, making for an undeniably visceral and
invigorating experience as the white-robed musicians saw, hammer and pluck
away on timpani, tubular bells, Moog synthesizer, digital harpsichord,
trumpet, trombone, French horn, flute, violin, cello, guitar, bass, theremin
and several other instruments I'm probably forgetting.
Not only was this very likely the first time the stage at Metro ever
hosted a harp, the harpist even got a solo showcase at the end of the night.
Launching its first U.S. tour in Chicago after a warm-up gig Thursday at
the Empty Bottle, the Polyphonic Spree played nearly all of the upbeat,
sing-along anthems from 2002's independently released debut, ''The Beginning
Stages of . . .'' as well as several newer and even more elaborate numbers
from its recently completed second album.
(Several major labels are now competing to sign the group after its
surprising success last year in Europe and the U.K., giving the group the
cash for the first time to hit the road in this country, and DeLaughter--formerly
the leader of alternative-era also-rans Tripping Daisy--his first shot at
It's hard to write about individual songs because none of the tunes on
the album are titled. In any event, they tended to run together like the
music at a gospel revival, with the effect of forming one long piece of
music that ebbed and flowed, built and receded, around chanted refrains
about the power of love and the joys of being alive.
From time to time during this set (as well as at earlier performances
that I caught in Texas), the cynic in me wondered if the Spree's outlandish
good cheer might just be a put-on inspired by an overdose of Wellbutrin and
But then the horns and the choir surged forward once more, as they did on
the climactic set-ending cover of David Bowie's ''Five Years,'' the majestic
opening track from ''Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars,'' and I'll be
damned if I wasn't swept away anew.
Even in these hopelessly cynical and godless times, music this
effervescent can make a believer of anyone. What a night indeed.