Wednesday 7 February 2024

The Last Dinner Party - Manchester HMV - 6th February 2024

The Last Dinner Party are the name on everyone's lips right now. As the five-piece sit atop the midweek charts with their debut album Prelude To Ecstasy, debate rumbles around them. Depleted in number as bassist Georgia is ill, four-fifths of The Last Dinner Party delighted an excited in-store crowd in Manchester Arndale's HMV store with a five-song stripped-back set.

Let's deal with the debate first. The notion of an industry plant is a ridiculous one dreamt up by fantasists who begrudge anyone success and who seem to have a particular issue when it's young women achieving that success. It's even more ludicrous when it's their fellow women stoking the fires. The concept of a major record label spending money on promoting, plugging, providing the best PR and tour support to the artists they've signed and invested in isn't a particularly complex one for anyone with half a brain cell and their hinges fully functioning to comprehend, but here we are in social media world 2024 where ridiculous comment spreads like wildfire.

The Last Dinner Party are a great band, one that ten years ago would have been suppressed and not got out of the London circuit on which people conveniently forget they cut their teeth. This is something to celebrate. Proof of those early shows and the genuine excitement around them sits on YouTube for anyone to see. They've translated that so far to the point they've sold out thousand capacity venues round the country and in the US as well as a triumphant album launch at The Roundhouse in London.

That buzz doesn't ordinarily translate to a sterile upstairs brightly-lit room in a record shop in the middle of Manchester's centre, but there's a sense of genuine excitement as a crowd of all ages and identities has gathered and snaked their way round the store before making their way up to the newly-installed performance area. Not even the absence of Georgia can dampen the spirits of the crowd keen to witness them close up in a way that's unlikely to happen again for the foreseeable future.

The performance is stripped back and seated so the theatrics and visuals of their live show don't come into play here and therefore it is just about the music and The Last Dinner Party deliver in a way that would assauge the concerns of any sane doubter as to whether they are the real deal. They start with Beautiful Boy, with Emily on flute and later acoustic guitar, Aurora on keys, Lizzie on guitar and Abigail on vocals. The drama of the live show is replaced by a tender ethereal feel. Around the room people mouth the words, cameras are held up to capture a moment (and irritating block others views) but everyone is focused on the four women on stage. 

It's followed by On Your Side, one of the singles that preceded the album. Abigail jokes that we're going to be treated to all the weepy ones off the record because of the nature of the sets they're performing on this promotional tour. The layered vocal harmonies are one of the stand out features of this set and on this song in particular they're gorgeous and heart-melting.

Abigail then tells us tongue-in-cheek that they're going to play the "country roads" version of Caesar On A TV Screen and that they had the idea for a country version of their album before Lana Del Rey and that it was going to be called La Soeur. The stripped down take on the song manages to reinvent it without losing the majesty of the original.

Lizzie takes the lead on Sinner and to the joy of some of their most dedicated fans down the front she tells us that it's going to include the original intro that they played live in the early days but which didn't make the single or album versions. It makes for a very different take on the song but one which doesn't lessen its message of self-acceptance and understanding who you are and what makes you up and in many ways, in this brightly lit room, heightens it. They then take time to reflect on the craziness of their songs being played in record shops that they would have been customers in ten years earlier. Emily tells us that HMV Manchester was her local store and she spent days as a schoolgirl in the store.

They finish with "the hit" as Abigail calls it. They stop and think how they're going to do it without Georgia and Aurora says "wing it". The crowd help them out by singing the bass line to Nothing Matters and then joining in but so as not to drown out the band. And then they're done, taking in the audience's applause before heading to sign copies of the album for a very patient queue.

Their rise may have been seemingly meteoric in the last twelve months, but The Last Dinner Party cut their teeth in small venues in London before the hype around them that has created the furore and vitriol towards them online as they head to the top of charts and some of the biggest non-arena venues in the country. Today's set showed that they are a real deal not some made up fantasy of a record company executive in London as some would have you believe. They're unstoppable and the dissenters will soon be drowned out by the sheer volume and size of their following.

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

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