The Maccabees @ The Leadmill 21/01/12
The first night of a tour must be fairly nerve-wracking for any band.
Not knowing if your setlist's quite right, hoping you’ve got the new songs pinned down, wondering whether or not that big, polka-dot blouse was a good idea (I’m looking at you, Orlando Weeks)...
But when your new album is being heralded as one of the best releases of the month, if not the impending year, and the critics are beyond sure that it’s going to be the making of you, then you can be forgiven for having stomach full of butterflies. None the less, when The Maccabees stride on stage, with their backs to the crowd, their welcome is enough to warm the entire room on this bitterly cold Winter’s night.
Their set is naturally dominated by ‘Given To The Wild’, but when played side-by-side with tracks from their debut, it highlights how much they’ve matured, both musically and personally. Having the gorgeously sensitive ‘Forever I’ve Known’ follow the likes of ‘Precious Time’ shows a sharp shift to heartbreak from the early days of flirtation and hope. Yet still, the lyrics “I’m a child to your voice” is echoed in the gaze of the Brighton boys’ long-time lovers, and the instrumental breakdown is just as hard-hitting live as it is on record, with strobe lights giving it an extra boost of aching angst.
The synth element of their new album is brought into play with ‘Went Away’, along with it’s twinkling guitars and strident bass. The gentle plea of “Don’t let me go / I need you so” amidst the prattling guitars sounds a million miles away from ‘First Love’s casual reprise of “It’s only love”, yet the band managed to bring their fuller, more complete sound to this old favourite. They sound comfortable, in the best possible way. Frontman Oralando’s usually timid demeanour is sporadically broken with playful bobbing and slightly strange chicken pecks, but he remains ever humble, thanking the audience for being patient with the new material. Lead single ‘Pelican’ has a curious ability to make the room burst with energy and the mood skyrocket, despite it’s morbid lyrics - amazing what a rambunctious riff can make you overlook.
The boys return for the encore punching the air, although Orlando looks endearingly bashful. They come on to ‘Unknow’, starting eeriely but gaining momentum, leading into full-frontal atmospheric indie-rock. Weeks proves himself to be a rare breed in the realm of lead singers; the male nightingale, as he closes eyes and clings tightly to the microphone. As the heart-beat bassline flatlines, ‘X-Ray’ turns the crowd into a swaying frenzy. Guitarist brothers Hugo and Felix White look on proudly at the twee pandemonium they’ve created; a rollicking clash of wool and leather.
The night finishes with album closer ‘Grew Up At Midnight’, despite the crowd’s continuing cries for ‘Latchmere’. As the swirling, heading guitar reaches a strumming rush to the end, The Maccabees push through with their maturing sound, whether the fair-weather fans like it or not.
Words by Abbie Evans