REVIEW: Maximo Park, Newcastle City Hall

Maximo Park's Paul Smith in action at Newcastle City Hall. Pic: Gary Welford.
Maximo Park's Paul Smith in action at Newcastle City Hall. Pic: Gary Welford.
0
Have your say

It’s hard to believe it’s 10 years since the North East’s best band of recent times released their magnificent debut album A Certain Trigger.

But that was the whole reason for a sold-out audience gathering in the splendour of just about the only Newcastle venue where Maximo Park never played.

Maximo Park's Paul Smith in action at Newcastle City Hall. Pic: Gary Welford.

Maximo Park's Paul Smith in action at Newcastle City Hall. Pic: Gary Welford.

‘Sold-out’ signs have gone up pretty much everywhere they’ve played on this tour, and a couple of the shows have even been captured for posterity on live CDs.

And it says much for Maximo’s continued pulling power that while albums by many of their 2005 contemporaries are now only found in charity shops, Maximo have just reissued A Certain Trigger on vinyl for its anniversary.

While lesser groups have enjoyed their 15 minutes of fame, Paul Smith and co have flourished, with last year’s Too Much Information being their fifth album.

Formed in 2000, it took four years for them to make a breakthrough, and they’ve never looked back since, always producing engaging, thoughtful music, while never moving too far away from the indie-rock template which has served them so well.

Maximo Park's Paul Smith in action at Newcastle City Hall. Pic: Gary Welford.

Maximo Park's Paul Smith in action at Newcastle City Hall. Pic: Gary Welford.

What’re more they’ve got the same line-up they started out with: effervescent front man Smith on vocals, Duncan Lloyd on guitar, Lukas Wooller on keyboards, Archis Tiko on bass and Tom English on drums.

Tonight was the proverbial gig of two halves, with an 11-track warm-up set drawing material from across their career followed by the performance of all 13 tracks from A Certain Trigger, in order, as they appear on the record.

Many of the songs are still staples of their setlist, but they probably haven’t played the whole thing since they toured it way back in 2005.

First the ‘warm-up’ set: they opened with crowd favourite Girls Who Play Guitar, and followed with National Health, the title track from their 2012 fourth album. They promised some rarities too, and duly dusted off A19, an early B-side.

Maximo Park's Paul Smith in action at Newcastle City Hall. Pic: Gary Welford.

Maximo Park's Paul Smith in action at Newcastle City Hall. Pic: Gary Welford.

It’s a highlight of a record which might be off the radar of many, the B-sides and rarities compilation Missing Songs, which has just been given a first release on vinyl, and it also gave tonight’s set A Year Of Doubt, originally the flip of one of their most popular songs, Going Missing.

A few other more recent gems were thrown into the mix: The Kids Are Sick Again from Quicken The Heart, Hips And Lips from The National Health, Leave This Island and Midnight On The Hill from Too Much Information, and a rapturously-received Our Velocity and Books From Boxes from second album Our Earthly Pleasures.

That was end of part one, and a quick break and a change of shirt from Smith later, it was time for what the fans had come to hear, with some powerful drumming from Tom English signalling the intro for urgent opener Signal And Sign.

A Certain Trigger was nominated for the prestigious Mercury Prize back in the day, and it’s easy to see why: there’s not a bad track on it.

Maximo Park's Paul Smith in action at Newcastle City Hall. Pic: Gary Welford.

Maximo Park's Paul Smith in action at Newcastle City Hall. Pic: Gary Welford.

You’ll go a long way to find a better quartet of singles on an album than Apply Some Pressure, Graffiti, Going Missing and The Coast Is Always Changing, but several other tracks are just as good.

Limassol, always one of my favourites, was a contender for song of the night, along with Acrobat, the one slower song on the album, which, given some added muscle, has never sounded better. Closing track Kiss You Better was the last song of the set, with a sweat-drenched Smith declaring: “That’s it, we’ve got nothing left,” as the band dispensed with the fake formality of an encore.

It’s a gig which will live long in the memory of every fan who was there, and the good news is that even though Smith and guitarist Lloyd have dabbled with solo albums, Maximo Park are very much a going concern, with the beaming singer promising: “We’ll be back with some new music next year.”

I, for one, can’t wait to see what they come up with next, and I know I’m not alone.

Maximo Park's Paul Smith in action at Newcastle City Hall. Pic: Gary Welford.

Maximo Park's Paul Smith in action at Newcastle City Hall. Pic: Gary Welford.