Featured image: Minty Slater Mearns
It’s almost impossible to imagine how large of a crowd a band with only three released singles can conjure up on a chilly Thursday evening until you see it for yourself. Manchester Academy 2 filled right to the back with 6 Music Dads and young women in billowing skirts and their very best sparkly makeup is a sight to behold. It’s a strange mix of audience members, but for The Last Dinner Party, it works just fine.
The London-based five-piece have been busy making quite the stir over the last few months and from this one set alone, it’s easy to see where the hype comes from. Entering the stage to the sound of a huge orchestral arrangement accompanied by the almost deafening roar of the 950 strong audience, ‘Burn Alive’ is the lovechild of Bowie and Bush.
Lead singer Abigail Morris is enchanting to watch as she twirls about the stage. It seems she’s almost unable to be much more than a few centimetres away from her bandmates Lizzie Mayland, Emily Roberts, Georgia Davies, Aurora Nishevci as they quite literally lend her their shoulders to lean on or casually embrace at regular points throughout the set.
The female experience is a central point of their music. ‘Feminine Urge’ details the kind of white hot rage that exists after years of being seen as nothing but a provider for men while ‘Beautiful Boy’ opens with a stunning flute solo by Roberts and focuses on that feeling of gender envy when you see a man that is so beautiful without even remotely having to try that it feels unfair. For ‘Ghuja’ (Albanian for tongue), the spotlight is on Aurora, a guitar is swapped for a mandolin and the mood shifts briefly away from feelings of lust to that of shame toward not being able to speak your mother tongue that well.
There’s not really a single moment that the crowd are quiet for the duration of the group’s set, there’s constant whooping, cheering and raucous applause so it’s no surprise that when they’re invited to join in with their best echoes of ‘give me the strength’ during ‘Portrait of a Dead Girl’ this is equally as loud. I suppose we have primary school assemblies to thank for the skill of being able to do things in unison with such gusto like this.
‘My Lady of Mercy’ is the group doing what they do best, telling stories of unbridled female sexuality and this time set to the backdrop of Catholic school. It’s a niche experience for sure but some of those in the room clearly it’s one they’re all too familiar with. The irresistibly catchy ‘Godzilla’ follows as the clock ticks ever closer to 10pm.
The hour the band has been on stage feels like five minutes but the best five minutes there ever was. Morris takes the opportunity to just be with her audience for a moment: “We’re still not used to doing this, thank you for having us. If there’s one thing that you take away from tonight, remember nothing matters.” Those words the catalyst for quite the reaction from their adoring audience as the group burst into their debut single ‘Nothing Matters’, it’s almost physically possible to feel everyone present let go of their worries just for those few minutes as the room erupts into a sea of movement and more singing along until just like that the light fades to black.
We can only hope the group will keep on returning as long as the crowds remain as fun as this one was.