The Last Dinner Party are breaking all the rules. Tonight, they have sold out the jewel in the Manchester live music crown having released exactly two songs; by the time they are back in town in October to play the much larger Academy 2, they’re unlikely to have released many more. This is virtually unheard of, and that’s the way this London five-piece like it.

They have a serious claim to being the most hyped new band in the country, having chosen a path that recalls the pre-internet era of word-of-mouth momentum. Locating themselves in the thick of the fervent Brixton Windmill scene, their live shows – and they play as many of them as they possibly can – became the most talked-about events in South London at some point in 2022, and intrigue was only fuelled by the fact that audiences could not stream or buy their music online; no, to find out why everybody was talking about The Last Dinner Party, you had to go to see them play. A few rave media profiles and a brief, lamentable flurry of undeserved controversy later, and we arrive at the Deaf Institute tonight, with the band in full stride.

They may be connected to the Windmill scene, but musically, they are a long way from the likes of Black Midi. As they scorch into opener ‘Burn Alive’, the theatrical, flamboyant flourishes of frontwoman Abigail Morris envelop the room, her balletic arm swings and yelping glam vocals setting the tone. There is a compressed grandeur to the band, as if their instincts are to strive for the most ostentatious, maximalist version of themselves, while still enjoying the necessary confines of these small, independent stages. 

From the insistent melody of ‘Feminine Urge’ to the classic rock strut of ‘Portrait of a Dead Girl’ to the deep, bluesy groove of ‘Mirror’, it is impossible to define the band in terms of one narrow style or genre. Pop music’s history is their playground and they pick and choose elements as they please, channelling them all through their own enthusiastic, confident filter. 

‘Gjuha’ is their most intriguing track. Taking its title from the Albanian word for ‘tongue’, it features the prodigiously talented Emily Roberts switching from lead guitar to mandolin, while the group channel Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares with their other-worldly, enchanting choral vocals over the intro, before the track bursts into a bouncing indie pop beast.

Needless to say, the two released tracks, ‘Sinner’ and the beltingly anthemic ‘Nothing Matters’ get the boldest reactions from this excellent Friday night crowd, although a measure of this band’s growing cult status can be found in the fact that many people were singing along with some of the unreleased songs, too. Much larger things lie ahead for The Last Dinner Party; for those in attendance tonight, it could well be a source of future pride to have caught them at such an early, intimate Manchester gig.

Max Pilley

I'm a refugee in Manchester, having successfully escaped Birmingham in 2007. I'm a soon-to-be journalism student, used to edit the music section of the Manchester Uni paper, and have done a little radio production to boot. I've been adding bits and pieces to Silent Radio since 2012, mostly gig reviews, but a few albums too. Also hoping now to get involved with the brilliant radio show. When doing none of that, you can usually find me at some gig venue somewhere around town.