Last Friday at Hammerstein Ballroom, we learned that it’s really hard to take a decent picture of the Polyphonic Spree when some dork in a choir robe is pogo-ing right in front of you. But the joke was on him, because the Texas choral-rock group have swapped their robes for black pseudo-military uniforms to promote their upcoming album, The Fragile Army. Creepy? Definitely. Creepier than the usual implication that they’re a religious cult? Probably not.
Wardrobe aside, the two-dozen-member band still rock out like an antidepressant jingle written by Andrew Lloyd Weber. Backed by a giant banner reading “HOPE,” front man Tim DeLaughter delivered most of his optimistic mottos while perched atop a monitor, close enough to the crowd that one fan was able to present him with a wrestling belt, further obliterating traditional perceptions of strength and masculinity.
The encore that rounded out two hours of cheer-inducing music gave the group an opportunity to slip into their old teal robes, trigger the last two of the evening’s four silver confetti explosions, and honor High Line curator David Bowie by playing “Memory of a Free Festival.” (How could they not cover a song that ends with a couple dozen repetitions of the line, “The sun machine is coming down / And we’re gonna have a party”?) The big finish involved the entire band pointing into the empty balcony, prompting many of us to crane our necks in hopes of seeing Mr. Bowie watching from on high. It totally bummed us out that he wasn’t. —Lindsey Thomas