The Maccabees @ KOKO, 24th January 2012

MTV Brand New For 2012

This first paragraph was going to be a balanced, rounded review of the latest hottest-potato-in- the-pop-bonfire, a certain Miss Lana Del Rey. All preconceptions, memories of awful TV performances and bullshit PR were to be left at Mornington Crescent Tube and she was to be judged on this night, with our own eyes and ears. A clean slate so to speak. Sadly, within two feet of the Koko front door we’re told that LDR has cancelled due to illness and suddenly you kind of feel that she’s just pissed on your nice clean slate. Thankfully, this meant that we could nip to the pub instead of standing around for an hour while the Koko barstaff decimate £4.30 cans of Fosters, so every cloud…but still, we were intrigued. Who knows why LDR didn’t turn up? As I type she’s chatting away on XFM sounding pretty fine and she managed her Zane Lowe session in one piece. Maybe she was too busy playing Video Games (© Francesca)? Maybe she couldn’t be arsed, realised the futility of doing anything as we’re all Born to Die (that’s mine – hmmm)? Maybe it was the thought of another shit live performance being more ammunition to the haters? Who knows and ultimately who cares, we weren’t there to see her anyway.

Just before the release of Wall of Arms in 2009 we were lucky enough to catch The Maccabees play a warm-up show at the Barfly. That night there was a definite sense of anticipation and intrigue before the gig. We’d heard that the new album was a grander, more ‘adult’ affair and wanted to know if they could pull it off. Wanted to know if the charm and unique sound that had made you fall in love with the band the first time round was still there. Nervous excitement was everywhere. Standing waiting for them to come on stage last night you couldn’t help but feel the same. This time though, we’d heard the album and read the reviews. Lavish praise across the board, but somehow for us, Given to the Wild just hasn’t sat quite right however much we’ve wanted it to. It’s certainly an ambitious record, full of big ideas and a bigger sound rightly applauded, but there are also parts that pass you by and perhaps even, dare we say it, a Latchmere-esque shaped hole? Obviously, this is in context, Given to the Wild is still better than 99% of everything else we’ve heard in the last 12 months, but the bar’s been raised and lead single Pelican was a disappointing appetiser.

Having said all this, it takes approximately four songs to dispel any anxiety. Opening with Given to the Wild (Intro) the band find their rhythm, building the melody into second song on the album, Child. With its gentle build and layered approach it connects, bringing the first movement from the front rows as Felix’s guitar kicks in and the drums ramp it up. Feel to Follow is next, a brave move to open with two / three new tracks, and again follows a similar pattern, starting slow before taking off with the interweaving guitars and added synths from an extra backing member onstage. It’s then, when the familiar refrain of Lego kicks in, that we finally get it. The old and the new work, the crowd go mental, the band are back to basics and you kind of wonder what you were worried about all along. The simple beauty of a song like Lego nestles perfectly between the grander tracks such as Feel to Follow and Went Away. Wall of Arms, Precious Time, Can You Give It and X-Ray all rifle past in this vein, played with gusto and confidence that the new material seems to have brought, while the crowd lap up every one. Orlando nods to the absence of Lana Del Rey to a backing of pantomime boos as he introduces No Kind Words, perhaps a subtle dig to her detractors with it’s line “If you’ve got no kind words to say / You should say nothing more at all”, and they finish their main set with Pelican, sadly still a clunky, throwaway song that doesn’t work any better live than it does on record. For their encore First Love almost causes a riot on the dancefloor and they end with album closer Grew Up at Midnight which is a euphoric, sonic explosion of a finale with it’s lyrics of “we grew up at midnight / we were only kids then” perfectly capturing the mood and themes of the evening.

Coming away we could only smile, all the tension and perceived pending disappointments banished. We’re sorry we ever doubted them. The gig was a triumph, the right blend of the old and the new creating a near perfect set that was in no way lacking by the absence of Latchmere or Toothpaste Kisses. They played like they know they’re on the cusp of the big league and they have the body of songs to choose from to back it up. Alexandra Palace is just the beginning and someone needs to take a punt on them to headline a major UK festival. On this form they will not disappoint.

Published by Francesca Baker

Passionate about music, the world, exploring, literature and smiling. Writing, marketing and events for all my favourite things.

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