Frontwoman Abigail Morris could mesmerise any audience with her expressive hand movements and powerful chest voiceMillie Cole with permission for Varsity

The Portland Arms is never the coldest of places. However, it certainly doesn’t help if you’re wearing an elaborate costume based on the prompt “Victoriana and the language of flowers”. Surveying the crowd of sweaty people crammed in beside me, I could not help but notice the sheer range of people who had flocked to see The Last Dinner Party perform, from Portland Arms regulars to a group of superfans decked in gowns, flowers and ruffs. This latter segment of the audience almost gave the band a run for their money, though they too were clad in historical attire.

For a band that only formed in 2021, this level of enthusiasm is unprecedented but certainly not undeserved. That they have released just three singles makes it even more striking. Indeed, their rapid growth and major label backing have led some to accuse them of being “industry plants”. However, as Thursday’s concert demonstrated, the band are anything but a manufactured pop group, with one track written in keyboardist Aurora Nischevci’s mother tongue of Albanian and others incorporating flute and mandolin.

“The band are anything but a manufactured pop group”

It’s no surprise that they caused a stir on the London live scene. Frontwoman Abigail Morris could mesmerise any audience with her expressive hand movements and powerful chest voice, whilst Emily Roberts’ guitar skills are unreal. Her tone frequently resembles that of Brian May and offers hope for a return of the epic solo to pop music. All it took was a YouTube video of one of their shows for emails to start pouring in from labels and managers.

Their sound exudes the energy and flamboyance of 80s rock and, although they have frequently denied being influenced by ABBA, there are echoes of the Swedish supergroup in their prominent keyboard parts and punchy rhythms. Their lyrics border on the absurd (“And we’re a lot alike/In favour, like a motorbike/A sailor and a nightingale/Dancing in convertibles”) but are extremely intimate and tackle issues such as feminism and queerness.

“Their sound exudes the energy and flamboyance of 80s rock”

Morris was slightly constrained last Thursday night by the thinness of the Portland Arms stage yet still managed to mimic Florence and the Machine, reaching out to her fans who reached back, holding their hands and jumping into the crowd. Some members of the audience already knew the lyrics of their unreleased tracks, whilst another girl started crying from the intensity of it all. If this was the reaction to their lesser-known songs, I’ll leave you to imagine what occurred during ‘Nothing Matters’.


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The show navigated a broad range of emotion, from the classic rock of ‘Big Dog’ to the beautiful close harmonies and classical piano of ‘Beautiful Boy’. Even within songs, the band created dramatic contrasts using varied textures and drum parts. Sounding incredibly similar to their recordings, the group proved that they are not just relying on the exquisite production of James Ford [Arctic Monkeys, Foals] to carry them through. Despite this professionalism, the intimacy of the gig was maintained by the periodic interruptions of their guitar tech wearing a bright pink snood.

Near the end of the show, this snood-wielding technician carried a cake on stage and the crowd sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to Morris. Before launching into the final track, Morris thanked the support act Picture Parlour for their amazing set. Like The Last Dinner Party, Picture Parlour have generated plenty of anticipation through their live shows whilst releasing barely anything online. Their music sounds like what the new Arctic Monkeys should be. However, their best feature is undoubtedly Katherine Parlour’s voice, which has the raw and nasal quality of Amy Winehouse and occasionally even Bob Dylan. With two innovative female-led powerhouses on the line-up, there was no way the gig could not have been a success.