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The Last Dinner Party in Berlin — Review


A techno club sandwiched between a second-hand car dealer and an organic supermarket isn’t where I had imagined The Last Dinner Party making their European headline debut. Fresh off the back of an impressive BBC Sound of 2024 and Brits Rising Star double, alternative music’s latest hot shots are surfing on a tsunami of hype in the UK. Their music has even been described by Football Focus regular Garth Crooks as “lovely stuff”.

 

Tonight is the London-based outfit’s first show since the release of their chart-topping debut L.P. ‘Prelude to Ecstasy’. The five-hundred capacity Gretchen is unsurprisingly sold out on this drizzly February evening. Even the touts have opted for a night in.

 

Just shy of 9pm, the lights dim and the album’s eponymous orchestral track ushers the band onto stage. Vocalist Abigail Morris hangs back a moment, riling up her theatrically dressed superfans into a piranha-like frenzy. The 24-year-old emerges clad in what might best be described as Saltburnian garb and opener ‘Burn Alive’ bursts into life.


You often get the impression that bands touring Berlin would rather beat the Berghain queues than bash out their hits, but tonight this is not the case. The band seem honoured to be here and their songs are delivered with an infectiously raw joie de vivre. 

 

To my delight we are treated to album single ‘Caesar on a TV Screen’ early on. It’s a catchy piece of pop that sways between time signatures and historical epochs in equal measure. Any song that refers to Julius Caesar, the Red Scare and Leningrad in one clean sweep is a winner in my book.

 

We later indulge in both ends of the band’s spectrum in quick succession as the Albanian-language piano piece ‘Gjuha’ transitions seamlessly into pop-rock banger ‘Sinner’. Emily Roberts’ stadium-rock guitar playing is brought to the fore in the latter and she soars high above the wash of staccato keyboards and crisp vocals. The Guildhall-educated musician’s soloing is a spectacular feature of the night.

 

One notable omission from the five-piece outfit is their lack of a full-time drummer. You would think sticksmen up and down the country would kill for an invitation to London’s hottest dinner party. The bespectacled Casper has been roped in for the EU leg of the tour and he drums with aplomb as the band pace through their set in just over an hour.

 

It must be said, some of the new material flaunted by the band leaves a lot to be desired. ‘Big Dog’ is the kind of avant-garde rock number I could imagine falling flat even amongst the most ardent members of the Red Stripe-drinking postpunk brigade. Penultimate tune of the night ‘Godzilla’ shows promise but is more secondary school rock musical than BBC Sound of 2024.

 

You get the impression that The Last Dinner Party don’t take themselves too seriously. The band appear as surprised as they are delighted to have come so far in such a short space of time despite the term ‘industry plant’ being bandied about by journalists like a bag of cocaine at a 90s Oasis concert. You only have to look as far as the irresistibly catchy ‘Nothing Matters’ to see that this label is completely unfair.

 

Perhaps their giddying rise to fame speaks more to the lack of all-female alternative acts than it does to any musical exceptionalism. Granted, you’ve got your Wet Legs, your HAIMs and your Wolf Alices of this world, but we are looking at a white-male dominated genre. Hopefully, the ascent of this trailblazing band will signal an influx of more female-led rock groups.

 

Whatever your take on The Last Dinner Party, having seen them live I can only concur with Garth: their music is indeed lovely stuff.


Photo by Ben Bagley

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