The Polyphonic Spree plays to a small, sunshiney crowd

The Polyphonic Spree at the Sayers Club.
Photo: Spencer Burton
Jason Harris

Four stars

The Polyphonic Spree November 18, Sayers Club

After being presented with a slice of cake to celebrate his 50th birthday, lead singer, founder and mastermind of The Polyphonic Spree Tim DeLaughter looked out at the crowd and began tearing up. It was time to reflect on the difficult and magical journey his group has been on for 15 years. “There’s almost more people in the band than came tonight ...” and if you subtracted friends flown in by DeLaughter’s wife, it might have been a tie.

But, as DeLaughter pointed out, The Polyphonic Spree has always gone against the grain. A choral rock band created in a guitar-dominant era with songs named “Soldier Girl” and “La La” was probably never supposed to be around this long. The Spree’s staying power is a credit to DeLaughter’s songwriting skills and the excellent players that make the sum greater than the components. Woodwinds and horns (including flute, trombone and trumpet), strings (including cello and harp), a five-woman chorus, dual percussionists, keyboards, guitar, bass and more all worked in harmony, yet each stood out as well. There’s something very Astral Weeks about it, something Sgt. Pepper’s to it all. It’s not music for everyone, but those drawn in by it experience something deeply.

This tour featured the group’s first album, The Beginnings Stages of ..., played in full. Having never toured that LP in its original tone and tempo, it was a goal of the slimmed-down Spree—only 18 members onstage!—to get it right, and tight. Songs like “It’s the Sun” and “Hanging Around the Day” exist to make you happy, their sonic dominance overtaking you and leaving you with nothing but the most elementary desire, to be a part of the music as it happens.

Above all, The Polyphonic Spree and its devoted audience continue to follow the directive of the band’s best-known song “Light & Day”: “Just follow the day. And reach for the sun!”

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