It’s a good job we checked the tickets before setting off for the gig, because we might not have realised that The Last Dinner Party were starting their tour with an afternoon show, and as the last crawling days of summer peter out into Autumn’s bite the mixed crowd of both young and old of both sexes gather in the vaulted arches of Blackpool library for a glimpse of the hotly anticipated band of girls that make up this 6 piece hailing from London. Dressed in outfits which range from Jane Austen to Hammer Horror they take the stage, each presenting a facet of the whole, while lead singer Abigail Morris sings like a butterfly and shouts like a bee…or is it the other way round!?
Of course there has already been a buzz around this band for a few months with 6 Music playing their first single, the liberating “Nothing Matters” continually, while behind the scenes the marketing game steps up another notch to hype the next band into the big time. We had it all last year with Wet Leg, and I imagine the record company were looking for precisely that, but with this band they got so much more than they were bargaining for, because with the Last Dinner Party there is more than just the hype. There are genuine moments of musical brilliance here, and there is feeling and intelligence, along with hooks and good old fashioned fun too.
Take opener “Burn Alive”, which starts slowly after a classical fanfare, all burning embers and dark blazing furnaces before the drums roll into a chorus reminiscent of Arcade Fire (when they were good and really mattered). Abigail, resplendent in a white “Pride and Prejudice” dress and flowers, hits the stage sounding like a mixture of Siouxsie Sioux and Kate Bush, soaring with confidence, making dramatic sweeping gestures, while the atmospheres created by Aurora Nishevci on the keyboard smoulders and sparks. This and following song “Caesar On TV” really capture a band really starting to come into their own, with shades of Florence and the Machine, Miranda Sex Garden, Danielle Dax, Anna Calvi and the ever youthful Jo Spratley acting as a springboard into a new dawn, showing so much promise, and a band not afraid to be different and to express themselves without fear, especially on songs like “Feminine Urge”. At their best they seem to be taking the blueprint of “Never For Ever” by Kate Bush and pushing it forward into a darker future in a creaking galleon that is loaded with pearls and silks and is bristling with cannons, beautiful but dangerous.
Don’t get me wrong they are at times sometimes a little naive and haven’t quite reached the promised land, but they are young, so young and they have time on their side, and if they can steer their ship good and true and hold firm to the knowledge that they, as a group, really have something special, they will overcome. Like on the wonderful “Beautiful Boy” with those sublime harmonies and group dynamics, highlighting so much talent, from the arrangements of second guitarist Lizzie Mayland, to the flute playing of lead guitarist Emily Roberts.
Exploring Aurora’s Albanian heritage on “Gjuha” the band really show their talent for immersing themselves in sweeping and dramatic arrangements, which lean heavily on the European classical traditions, segueing perfectly into their last single “Sinner”, an updated bodice ripping Dickensian romp if ever there was one. Harmonies are very much to the fore on new song “Second Best” and it really sounds like it has the potential to be another hit, as does next single “My Lady Of Mercy”, with its huge heavy riff, and foot stomping middle eight, which had everyone clapping along.
Of course the band end their set with the evergreen “Nothing Matters”, which really deserved to have been a much bigger hit and it will continue to be a crowd pleaser for the rest of their first tour, but I believe the band are capable of so much more and I look forward to the release of their debut album, and hopefully many more to come. They are one of the few hyped bands to really live up to the buzz, and so much more besides. On “Mirror” Abigail sings “I’m just a mirror/I don’t exist without your gaze”. Time will tell but I don’t believe it.