June 23, 2024

The Last Dinner Party – Live in Leeds 2024 – “expressions wander from glee to delight to abashed surprise”

Live at The Brudenell Social Club, Leeds 11th February 2024

Sometimes accused of a suspiciously meteoric rise to fame, The Last Dinner Party played The Brudenell two years ago to half a dozen people and have worked long and hard at being ‘overnight sensations’. Tonight sees an absolutely packed venue, rapt attention and a band whose expressions wander from glee to delight to abashed surprise. Judging from the chatter around me pre-gig, they’ve managed to drag in a lot of people who don’t normally go to gigs – including a couple of women who burst into tears as their emotions at seeing the band overwhelm them.

It’s the sort of band that inspires overwrought feelings. From the fin-de-monde image, the prog-pop swirl and the lyrics that roam from teenage angst (the earliest, ‘Mirror’, was written by Abigail at seventeen) to observations on love, life, and gender power-politics. Ordinarily sounding like a fusion between Kate Bush and Florence & The Machine, as this is an album launch show, they’ve gone for a stripped back, acoustic set, eschewing the drums. Sat round like a classical quartet plus singer, the energy levels are lower on stage but the intimacy is up. Abigail Morris, on vocals, is a confident guide, sharing her thoughts and straddling the proud achiever / abashed unexpected success dichotomy by following her feelings as they sweep across with each song and the the reaction to it.

Opening with a couple of slower songs, ‘Beautiful Boy’ and ‘On Your Side’, things speed up a bit with ‘Caesar on a TV Screen’. “Jesus Christ!!” splutters Abigail, as bassist Georgia Davies pops a tin of Guinness open, medicating her cold. The seated members of the band seem slightly subdued by not being able to move about but Lizzie Mayland takes vocals on ‘Sinner’ and lights up as she does so.

I’m struck by the pleasure and surprise the band seems to be getting at the response to their work, while the catchy, gothy, over-wrought pop and striking couplets soak right through my ears and skin. This is a band enjoying that moment between being the next big thing and whatever larger but more distanced experience follows. For now they can celebrate the guitar tech’s birthday onstage with a cake, welcome their photographer wandering around, hug a fan or two and tell us a story.

It’s a very short forty minutes, that flashes past but they squeeze in a cover version, as they usually do; Chris Isaac’s ‘Wicked Dream’ this time, and nicely avoid a slavish recreation before ending, of course, on the first single, ‘Nothing Matters’, which brings together the vocal style, the tasty guitar licks, the bouncy, anthemic tune and send the audience off into the evening, a few of them sobbing happily.

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