The night’s proceedings were housed in the regal expanses of the Albert Hall, its arching windows and compact dance hall provided to the processional. As excited Maccabees fans lay in wait for the finale of their two-date residency in Manchester.
Upon the release of The Maccabees critically acclaimed fourth record ‘Marks to Prove It’ last year, the five-piece sculpted a bolder, more brazen pathway for themselves. Taking them up a notch from their status as the well-respected indie darlings, to one of Britain’s leading musical exports. For a band in The Maccabees position, selling out two dates at one of the most heralded venues in Manchester must seem normal thesedays, but still they thanked everyone for coming and seemed genuinely taken aback by the whole thing.
But before we get to the main act, a mention has to be made to their wonderful supports. Opening was ex-Tribes frontman Johnny Lloyd, and the girls with all the noise and a touch of sweetness too, The Big Moon. Both gave assured sets, a nod to their future endeavours as it can’t be long before they move up the bill themselves. The Big Moon’s trashy but sophisticated indie pop was a good segway between the two acts that bookended them. The former though provides a multitude of promise. Standing front and centre Lloyd exudes the swaggering side of rock’n’roll, his Leather jacket slung across his petite frame and his ramshackle guitar playing is something of perfected beauty. His songs are imbued with a classic style of songwriting, albeit emotionally-led, The War on Drugs-sized rock songs.
The Maccabees appear on stage just after 9pm, their arrival being met by exuberant cheers and adoration from the bustling crowd as they burst into ravaged riff-monster ‘Marks to Prove It’. Then quickly moving into a triumphant rendition of ‘Feel to Follow’, with singer Orlando Weeks’ emotive vocals driving proceedings to beautiful hazy heights – conducting the audience in a passionate sing-a-long. The band are playing like they’re on top of the world, aided by a small team of session musicians on piano, additional percussion and trumpet, they help bring their full vision to life in glorious colour.
For the most part it’s fast tempo’s and intricate soundscapes, but you get the occasional introspective moment which turns out to be their most ambitious quality. Particularly with songs like ‘Spit it Out’, starting small and spiralling into a flurry of blissful grandiose melodies, that paint the bands songwriting at its best.
What’s interesting as a spectator is the bands reluctance to take their roles as showmen, they do drive audience participation initially but find that they need little work on that front as the crowd and the band work hand in hand and push each other forward in unison. But it’s Weeks that is most interesting. As a frontman, Weeks has the charisma to carry it off with ease and hold an audience in the palm of his hand, but it’s also his reserved candidness that makes him not your typical frontman. He’s enticing but also aware not to give too much away. It’s his safety net. The songs are really where he has free reign to express himself, lyrically and through performance.
The two main things that strike you about a Maccabees set are one, that it’s a schooling in their vast catalogue – from fan favourites to the newer material, they are continually progressing as a band and are in fine form as they head into future longevity. And the second thing primarily, is that their live show is screaming out for the expansiveness that only bigger venues can provide. But for all that where there, they’ll treasure these intimate moments while they still can.
Photos: Priti Shikotra http://www.pshikotra.com/
The Maccabees fourth album ‘Marks to Prove It’ is out now on Fiction Records.