Sunday, May 20, 2007

Review: Polyphonic Spree at Cat's Cradle

Polyphonic Spree are a lot like other alt rock bands. There's a drummer, a lead singer, two guitar players and a bassist. There's also a harpist, flautist, two keyboard players, another percussionist, a three person horn section and six backup singers dubbed the Polyphonettes.

OK, so maybe the Polyphonic Spree are a little different.

The group brought its 32 person entourage (band + crew) to Cat's Cradle last weekend for a one of a kind show.

Dressed not in their characteristic robes but instead in black military uniforms with hearts, red crosses and an arm patch, the Spree took the stage and launched into material covering all three of their albums, including the upcoming The Fragile Army, to be released June 19.

Lead singer Tim DeLaughter asked the crowd nicely to buy their new album so the group doesn't get dropped from another record label.

But if anyone in the group was feeling down, you sure couldn't tell. For the entire two hours they were on stage, every member of the group (21 at our best count) was spilling over with enthusiasm. The only unfortunate part is it wasn't as infectious as you might think.

From my spot about four people back, I was amid a sea of arm-crossed zombies. It was only toward the end of the show when DeLaughter essentially demanded that the crowd give back some of the energy they were sending out that people really started to bounce and sing to the music.

There was one moment, though, that absolutely stood out from all the rest. During the last song of the main set, "The Championship," a track on the new album, the band exited the stage one by one as the remaining band members and crowd sang in unison, "All in good time, raise our voices." While it may sound cheesy, the sheer power of that moment, of everybody coming together as one, was incredibly. Check out this video on YouTube (of the band at Hammerstein Ballroom in New York two days before the Cat's Cradle show) to see what I mean.

When the Polyphonic Spree first gained popularity in 2003 a lot of people said, jokingly or not, that the band seemed to be part of some cult. They wore robes, were always happy and seriously, there are 24 of them. But if it takes dealing with such accusations to get such innovative, awe-inspiring and downright fantastic music, I'd say that's a pretty good deal.

[all photos by Kevin Norris]