Thursday 12 October 2023

The Last Dinner Party / Picture Parlour - Manchester Academy 2 - 12th October 2023

The Last Dinner Party are the name on everyone's lips. Whether it be the naysayers who dismiss them as industry plants or those throwing best band in the world accolades at them and everything it between, the six-piece have made waves with just three singles to their name. We caught their sold-out show at Academy 2 and witnessed a band set for greatness hold the audience spellbound for an hour. Support came from the magnificent Picture Parlour, a hometown show of sorts performing songs written a walk away in a Manchester flat.

It takes a brave band to take Picture Parlour out on tour with them. Despite only currently having one single - Norwegian Wood - to their name, they've already raised eyebrows and garnered the digital equivalent of pages of press, and tonight they prove that every single piece of it is warranted and then more. If they'd been the headline band their nine song set would have left us sated at the end on its own. They take influences from across the generations of female rock icons and fuse it into something that feels very much their own and of the here and now.

Katherine is their lead, a prowling presence resplendent in a red jacket and armed with a voice that's rich in emotion and with a depth and power to it that captivates the room. Guitarist Ella will be familiar to some on the Manchester scene from previous projects but here she owns the moments where she's given centre stage to let loose in a way she hadn't in those whilst bassist Sian has a boundless energy that the trio of them use to draw the audience in to songs they've probably never heard before. There's not a weak one in the nine, as is often the case with bands finding their way. Next single Judgement Day is harder edged than debut Norwegian Wood which finishes the set but it's opener Moon Tonic and The Face In The Picture that really stand out. Picture Parlour have the songs, the look and the personality to be whatever they want.

There's a real sense of anticipation as the clock turns nine and the lights dim awaiting the headliners, a sense that we're about to witness something special and we do. For a band with just two singles to their name at the time to sell out this venue almost immediately is no mean feat, for them to hold an audience with songs that are yet to be released is something else. In the quieter moments of dramatic pause there's absolute silence, complete respect and awe for what we're witnessing.

From moments where the five of them at the front - Aurora (keys, guitar), Emily (guitar, flute, mandolin), Abigail (lead vocals), Lizzie (guitar) and Georgia (keys, guitar) - harmonise together on Beautiful Boy and Second Best - to where they lose themselves in a dramatic cacophony of noise that makes perfect sense like penultimate track Godzilla, there's a sense of unerring purpose and direction. Abigail flies around the stage, down into the pit, never missing a note and living every moment of these songs that will become life-affirming if not life-saving anthems for young women the world over. 

They told our good friend Andy Von Pip in a recent interview that their name came from "inspired by the idea of a huge debauched dinner party where people came together to celebrate with a hedonistic banquet" and their live show very much feels like a reason to let the music take you out of the day to day and immerse yourself in the joyful raucous fun of the show, without losing sight of the potency of their message of empowerment.

There's moments of experimentation too. Gjuha has Aurora on lead vocals and is a short song in Albanian about her embarrassment about not being able to speak her native tongue. It's in keeping with the set, but provides a pause for breath and reflection before they launch into second single Sinner and the room loses its collective shit to it. Second Best starts with Emily playing flute as a soothing contrast before it builds, twists and turns and explodes into life. Portrait Of A Dead Girl has nine hundred of us singing back "give me the strength" to a visibly touched Abigail at the end.

My Lady Of Mercy may only have been out in the world a couple of days but already it's being sung back like an old favourite by those to whom this band have already made the vital connections that only the most personal and powerfully connecting music can make. Before the finale of Nothing Matters, a glorious statement  she tells us that they're still getting used to this - it's something they're going to have to very quickly indeed with a series of sold out shows in the US and bigger shows planned next year in the UK. 

The Last Dinner Party are going to be one of the most important bands of their generation, and if they're an industry plant, that most ridiculously stupid of insults, then we all need to get down to the garden centre and stock up on them. The momentum already feels unstoppable and we walked out of the Academy 2 having watched a new band for the first time since COVID who we genuinely feel could take over the world.

The Last Dinner Party's website can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter.

Picture Parlour are on Facebook and Twitter.


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