Words by Helen Knott / Pics by Ed Taylor (Digital Flow)
The first time I saw Maxïmo Park live was in 2005, in the small upstairs room of a Sheffield pub. There were about 15 of us in the crowd. Through the course of that gig I think that we all realised this band couldn’t fail to make it.
The songs were too good and lead singer Paul Smith too beguiling – a lassic indie poet cast from the same mold as Sheffield’s own Jarvis Cocker. Ten years and five albums later, Maxïmo Park are touring to mark the 10th anniversary of their debut album, A Certain Trigger – playing the O2 Institute‘s 1500 capacity main room.
And outside the numbers not too much has changed since Sheffield in 2005; Smith is still the same edgy, intense Romantic, spitting out lyrics in his unmistakable Geordie accent. It’s just now he has amplified his persona for a much bigger stage. The awkward bookishness of the early days is gone, replaced with the posturing and leaping of a rock star.
The first half of tonight’s Institute show is a selection of singles and rarities from throughout the band’s career. Singles such as ‘Our Velocity’ and ‘Girls Who Play Guitar’ have an excitable, beered up, Friday night crowd enthusiastically singing along.
And if it’s a little laddish, this is a particularly neurotic brand of modern laddishness: “If everyone became so sensitive / Perhaps I wouldn’t be so sensitive”. Besides, there’s something quite delightful about a roomful of people yelling along to lines like, “I am young and I am lost / You react to my riposte”. ‘Wonderwall’ this isn’t.
After a short break, Maxïmo Park return for a track-by-track performance of A Certain Trigger. The album stands the test of time pretty well, a fine example of mid-00’s indie pop to file alongside Franz Ferdinand, Kaiser Chiefs and Arctic Monkeys.
I have mixed feelings about the merits of playing the record in its entirety, however. Unlike Pink Floyd performing Dark Side of the Moon or Radiohead doing OK Computer, there’s not much to be gained from hearing this type of album – which is basically a collection of singles with some filler album tracks – from start to finish.
Still, playing the album in full does showcase some of its hidden gems; songs normally overlooked in favour of hits ‘Going Missing, Apply Some Pressure’ and ‘The Coast is Always Changing’. A case in point is ‘I Want you to Stay’, the record’s melancholic fifth single. It begins as a restrained love song, with twitching guitars developing in counterpoint to the wistful vocals (“Nothing works around here/ Where cranes collect the sky”), building in complexity and urgency before reaching its chaotic conclusion. It sums up the best of Maxïmo Park: while their songs tend to be familiar tales of love and loss, Smith’s diction and delivery is always idiosyncratic enough to avoid cliché.
As much as I was impressed by Maxïmo Park’s songs and charisma that night in Sheffield ten years ago, my overriding memory is of the band’s warmth – they were delighted that we had turned up to see them play.
Now there are 1,500 rather than 15 people in the crowd, but Maxïmo Park still have that ability to make each audience member feel valued, special and part of something exciting.
It’s a great feeling, for this reporter at least. And it’s one of the many reasons I believe Maxïmo Park continue to be so cherished by their fans over a decade after their debut – be in a small room in Sheffield or a big room in Birmingham.
For more on Maxïmo Park, http://maximopark.com/
For more from the O2 Institute, including full event listings & online ticket sales, visit http://o2institutebirmingham.co.uk/
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