Story and Photos by Tony BonyataOh, what a joyous occasion to be in Chicago last Tuesday evening. Nevermind that right across the street the Cubs were in the middle of their first playoff game against the Florida Marlins at the friendly confines of Wrigley Field, because inside the even friendlier confines (if only for this particular night) of the Metro stood one of the most positive group of musicians to ever grace the stage at this venerable Wrigleyville nightclub.
Their name is The Polyphonic Spree, and they are - as described by the band's charismatic leader / prophet Tim DeLaughter (formerly of Tripping Daisy) - a choral symphonic pop band. A very accurate description to be sure, but after witnessing this riveting performance the good Rev. Tim also forgot to add a few adjectives such as heavenly, majestic and spiritually uplifting.
With an unheard of 23 members for a touring rock outfit, this Dallas-based band - all clad in long flowing white robes, each with a different color trim at the bottom - slowly filtered out and cast a cleansing white over the entire stage. It became immediately apparent when bandmembers took their positions behind the likes of a harp, viola, vibraphones, french horn, timpani and, yes, even glockenspiel, that this wasn't going to be a normal rock show, but rather something more akin to that multi-ethnical gaggle on the hill who wanted to buy the world a Coke back in the '70s. And not unlike the sweet, syrupy soft drink those youngsters were cleverly hawking, this bubblegum chamber pop ensemble also proved to be the real thing.
An angelic intro on the vibes led directly into a spirited take of "Hanging Around" from their debut album The Beginning Stages of...The Polyphonic Spree. "God only knows what you're missing," DeLaughter sang as he spun and jumped euphorically around the stage, before exclaiming, "It's something in the way you move." It was not only lines such as these that gave a wink and a nod to the brilliant pop craft of Brian Wilson and The Beatles, but with such a richly textured, and often eclectic sound, the Flaming Lips as well.
With a mesmerizing stage presence, DeLaughter's impassioned performance often threatened to overshadow his engaging twenty-two piece ensemble - which, in itself, would seem an impossible feat. As he stood at the front of the stage with arms majestically spread open towards the crowd on the beaming chorus of "It's The Sun" the singer at times had the pulpit-pounding power of frontman Ebbot Lundberg from The Soundtrack Of Our Lives, while his overall cocksure swagger and spastic bravado was more than reminiscent of a young Joe Cocker.
Running through a few other joyous compositions from The Beginning Stages of... , such as "Have A Day," "Soldier Girl" and the positively inspirational "Light and Day"(which is currently being used in Volkswagen's iPod television commercial), the band also tested out a good amount of new material for their faithful followers. Songs such as the trombone-driven "Suitcase Calling," "The March," with it's smile-inducing eight-part harmonies and lighthearted flute twittering away, along with the celebratory sonnet "Diamonds" all mixed perfectly with their current sunshiny material.
By the evening's end the once cheerful tone on the streets may have been squelched by the Cubs defeat that night, but for the shiny, happy people who walked from the Metro's doors the feeling was that of only blissful content.
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