Vocalist Orlando Weeks is practically bouncing off the walls (and his band mates) with excitement and the entire performance has a giddy feel to it
The Maccabees - Live at Manchester Academy 1
The first thing that you notice as the newly-reconstructed Academy 1 opens its doors for the first time is that these five slightly posh Southerners, The Maccabees, seem to have got really rather big, albeit surreptitiously. Their brilliant debut album Colour It In, peaked at a comparatively tame #26 in the UK album charts and since they played the Academy 2 (a rather smaller venue as the name suggests) just six months ago, they haven't gone as far as to even release a new single or play more than a handful of shows. Which means that in order for the band to now be playing a crowded (although not sold out) Academy they have acquired a sizeable following through word of mouth alone – and that's a sure sign of quality. And quality is the very least that a swelling crowd (containing a very noticeable teeny element – outside I must have had an entire year nine class' worth of barely pubescent kids trying to scrounge cigarettes off me) received.
This is a very rare type of gig – one in which the band seem to have ascended to an entirely new level of performance through nothing more than sheer confidence and self-belief. No fancy stage tricks or even alterations to the old songs have been made but somehow the Maccabees seem a hundred times better than they were six months ago. The sound is fantastic; each track is weighted perfectly and performed with an exuberance and poise which belies the bands' relative inexperience. Vocalist Orlando Weeks is practically bouncing off the walls (and his band mates) with excitement and the entire performance has a giddy feel to it – All In Your Rows is chiming and powerful, X-Ray just as flinty and gripping as it is on record and by the time the sing-a-long hooks of Latchmere (now rightly put in its proper place near the end of the set rather than right at the beginning) soar through the crowd, one of the terms which can justifiably be used to describe this gig is 'fever pitch'.
The Maccabees don't need to resort to Bono-esque crowd-working tactics, instead lifting the audience with the sheer joy and thrill of their performance. When they want to be exciting they are searing. When they aim to be romantic they are yearning, wistful and lovelorn. This is not, however, merely a band on top of their game – the feeling is of a band that are only just starting to grow into the band they could become. The smattering of new songs bear this out. Darker, moodier and with less naivety than previous efforts, they still possess the heady tension that is indigenous to The Maccabees' output mixed with a noticeably more refined sound. Organic, absorbing and driven, these songs are the building blocks of a second album (apparently already well underway) which is already shaping up to be something quite extraordinary, quite 'transcendental'. This is a true coming of age.
A strong comparison that strikes me (albeit not musically), is between The Maccabees now and Echo & The Bunnymen at the beginning of their career. If Colour It In is The Maccabees' Crocodiles, half youthful exuberance and half moody thoughtfulness, then the new tracks sound strongly reminiscent of the tense, more dark and natural moments of Heaven Up Here. All the potential is there for The Maccabees to become a potent and original force in modern music. They haven't started calling themselves the best band in the world just yet, but quite soon a lot of people might just start saying it for them.
Words: Matti Gregory