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19th February 2024

The Last Dinner Party live: Spreading their ‘Ecstasy’ across the UK

We observe Britain’s hottest indie prospect in action as they spread their ‘ecstasy’ at their most recent Manchester show
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The Last Dinner Party live: Spreading their ‘Ecstasy’ across the UK
Credit: Ailish O’Leary Austin @ The Mancunion

Words by Samuel Chamberlain

One look at setlist.fm will tell you that The Last Dinner Party’s usual choice of opener when performing live is album track ‘Burn Alive’. However, to mark the biggest show of their career at Camden’s Roundhouse, the band opted to begin the set with ‘Beautiful Boy’: a gorgeous track laced with theatricality and backed by guitarist Emily Roberts on flute. This choice appropriately set the scene for what was to be a remarkable, memorable hour for all as smoke billowed and the audience became enthralled.

Towards the end of their set, the band were joined by the Elysian Collective orchestra for a rendition of ‘Godzilla’, a fan favourite which was not included on ‘Prelude to Ecstasy’, to the dismay of many. The closing song, as at many of their shows, was aptly ‘Nothing Matters’, the song which first garnered attention for The Last Dinner Party outside of London’s live circuit. As confetti streamed, audience members literally gave the band their roses – thanks to a fan project – which caused many a teary eye on stage. For many attendees, it would have been previously hard to imagine such a new band conquering such a big venue, but throughout their 13-song set they proved that they belonged there.

Considering their visit to Pryzm in Kingston courtesy of Banquet Records took place on the day of their album release, and the day after such a monumental show, it wouldn’t be surprising or reprehensible if their performance was a little shaky as an aftermath of their celebrations. However, though it was clear that the band’s energy wasn’t as high as usual, the performance remained impressive, captivating and commendable.

Following their performance in Kingston, The Last Dinner Party appeared at Rough Trade East in Shoreditch, once again to promote their debut album and enrapture audiences in the process. Across two differing half-hour sets, the band played a selection of tracks from said album before signing copies afterwards. Their presence seemed to cause widespread excitement as fans were rendered starstruck: it is truly astonishing that a band can leave so much of an impression so soon after their inception.

Once their mini tour within London had concluded, The Last Dinner Party made a stop at Manchester’s HMV branch to perform an acoustic set. Despite being shorter than most shows on the tour, featuring only four of the five singles released in advance of ‘Prelude to Ecstasy’, this performance was just as beguiling, emotional, and laudable. Opening with ‘Beautiful Boy’, as they did in Camden, the band appropriately set the scene for what was to be a beautiful, angelic show.

the last dinner party
Credit: Ailish O’Leary Austin @ The Mancunion

As the band delved further into their set, the songs shone as they were laid bare. The moving track ‘On Your Side’ sounds as if it were made to be played acoustically: on the album, it is a heart-wrenching piano ballad, but it becomes all the more sombre and moving when stripped back even further. Backed only by the keys of Aurora Niveschi and the guitar of Lizzie Mayland and Emily Roberts, singer Abigail Morris’ hypnotic, ethereal vocals were allowed to stand out.

Within ‘Prelude to Ecstasy’, the final single ‘Caesar on a TV Screen’ operates as a booming, authoritative highlight early into the album. Here, it would be understandable if the song’s commanding, dominant qualities were restrained, yet its power was sustained despite the instrumentalism being softened. Preceding ‘Sinner’, Lizzie Mayland (guitar) explained that the band would be performing the song with its ‘original’ opening: this was not only melodic, poetic, and mesmerising, but also offered audience members an insight into the development of a fan favourite.

the last dinner party

Launching into “the hit”, ‘Nothing Matters’, The Last Dinner Party themselves visibly adorned smiles, seeming bewildered that this is their lives now. Emily Roberts informed the audience that this was her local HMV, and Abigail Morris (lead vocals) remarked that it was baffling to see their own debut album, and hear it playing, in record shops that she and her bandmates would frequent.

Though it may have only been a shortened acoustic performance, every song played was absorbed by a continually attentive audience. The absence of bassist Georgia Davies (due to illness) was certainly felt at times, but the sentimentality of intimate shows such as this, even for bands such as The Last Dinner Party who are perpetually reaching new heights, became clear. Moments of humour complemented the intimacy of the set, and the band left the stage with a fittingly theatrical bow and a Queen Elizabeth-style wave.

the last dinner party
Credit: Ailish O’Leary Austin @ The Mancunion

The group’s next stop is Leeds’ Brudenell Social Club, arguably one of the country’s best independent venues, for an electro-acoustic hybrid performance with Georgia back on bass. Much as the band lacked the drums of frequent collaborator Rebekah Rayner to tie the tracks together, their individual talents were highlighted, and it has to be said that not every indie rock band would have the ability to survive on stage without the backing of percussion.

Anyone who caught The Last Dinner Party during this run of shows will attest that the band are an extraordinary live spectacle, proving their captivating talent and justifying their recent critical acclaim in venues both big and small. This intimate tour in particular was nothing but momentous: the band began without a record out at Camden’s Roundhouse, but finished with a Number-One album in the UK and a huge Academy-sized tour announced for autumn. The Last Dinner Party may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s undeniable that they are something special in the world of indie rock.

Ailish O'Leary Austin

Ailish O’Leary Austin

Head of Music Photography for the Mancunion and photography student at Manchester Metropolitan University! Contact: ailishpix.com • instagram.com/ailishpix • [email protected]

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