Image: Sophie Flint Vázquez via The Boar

The Last Dinner Party deliver a stellar acoustic set in Birmingham’s HMV Vault

HMV Vault, Birmingham, 7th February 2024

I’m in Birmingham on an average Wednesday, but something truly magical is about to happen. The Last Dinner Party is about to take the stage in HMV Vault and perform an intimate, acoustic show in celebration of the release of their debut album, Prelude to Ecstasy. During every show on this run, the band has dropped the indulgent extravagance of their usual live shows, cordially inviting the audience to stand back and slip into absolute bliss.

Having cut their teeth on the live circuit and facing allegations of being so-called “industry plants”, The Last Dinner Party is an exciting success story that inspires hope within a somewhat stagnant music industry. Their whirlwind rise to the top, from word-of-mouth promotion to headlining festival stages and winning the Rising Star BRIT award, has been astounding to watch. With the recent release of Prelude to Ecstasy, everyone’s attention is on the band right now.

The vocal layers during the climax of the song are hauntingly beautiful, setting the tone for the evening

Given the maximalism that the band is known for, I must preface this review with an admittance of scepticism. I was doubtful as to how the studio recordings, which are so rich with various orchestral elements, would translate into a stripped-back acoustic set. However, The Last Dinner Party do not disappoint, as I found myself happily surprised to see how well their songs worked acoustically.  

Opening with lead singer, Abigail Morris, telling the audience that Emily Roberts, usually the guitarist, will play the flute, the band breaks out into a rendition of ‘Beautiful Boy’. Roberts and keyboardist, Aurora Nishevci, play the band in, allowing the melodies of the flute and piano to blend. A synergy of instrumentation silences the excited buzz of the room. As soon as Morris’ vocals begin, all my concerns are eased. At first faint, her vocals build towards the chorus, where Lizzie Mayland’s harmony begins. The vocal layers during the climax of the song are hauntingly beautiful, setting the tone for the evening.

‘Caesar on a TV Screen’ is a joy to see performed acoustically. Initially, melodic Morris’ vocal performance shifts when the first chorus hits, matching the empowering sentiments of the song. Her voice oozes with confidence, however, unlike a full performance it stands alone with very little instrumentation. This heightens the sense of egotism present in the track while adding a new uncertain edge to the lyrics.

Another impressive vocal performance is Mayland’s (the band’s guitarist and sometimes vocalist) original intro to ‘Sinner’, which did not make the original cut on the album. Mayland’s vocal performance truly shines during ‘Sinner’, with the gentleness of the intro contrasting with the high energy of the rest of the track. The band manages to maintain this energy even in the acoustic setting, with Mayland’s vocals striding forward. The performance left me excited for the potential release of an acoustic recording of ‘Sinner’.

‘Nothing Matters’ unites the whole store

Prelude to Ecstasy’s final track, ‘Mirror’, provides an almost eerie element to the evening. The simultaneously uneasy yet fragile recording translates wonderfully into the acoustic setting, with Morris’ falsettos feeling particularly intimate. This is heightened by her mannerisms, as she gently sways while hugging herself. It is a far cry from her usual flair. However, it works incredibly well, especially given the heartbreaking lyricism of the song.

The evening culminates with a triumph, performing the single that started it all as the band holds the audience captive for one final song. ‘Nothing Matters’ unites the whole store. The audience sways and softly sings along while remaining immersed in the stunning live performance. Delightful as ever, the performance supplies nothing but excellence: enchanting harmonies, syrupy sweet vocals, and strong high notes.

While the tools at the disposal of The Last Dinner Party within the HMV Vault store may not lend themselves to their usual theatrics, the band adapted to the more casual setting brilliantly. It is easy to be drawn in by the band’s styling and distinctive visuals, but the acoustic show proves the talent and substance that lies underneath the maximalism. The Last Dinner Party deliver something that the music scene did not know it was missing with a flourish.



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