The Maccabees at HMV Institute, Birmingham, UK – Gig review and photos

January 31, 2012
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The Maccabees at HMV Institute, Birmingham, England - photo by Andrew Hughes, Music ViceThe Maccabees – photo Andrew Hughes for Music Vice

The Gig: The Maccabees
Where: HMV Institute, Birmingham, UK
When: 27 January 2012
In One Word: Grandiose

The Maccabees: A new year, a new album!

The Maccabees tour continued tonight in one of Birmingham’s finest venues, the HMV Institute; and Music Vice was there to catch the boys in action. The stunning venue was an acclaimed step up for the group, with tiered balconies and a bustling crowd that the band has gathered over three albums worth of blood, sweat, and mosh pit tears! The HMV was thus a perfect setting for what turned out to be an encapsulating performance and a rowdy, enthusiastic crowd of ever devoted fans.

The London based five-piece recently released their third album entitled Given to the Wild which has seen the band take on a new more “mature” sound to high reviews from the UK press, ourselves included. Given To The Wild is an album which has brought them significant success so far, but it is only early days; and with initial success and media buzz comes the pressure to replicate this new sound live. Could they pull it off? We waited to see…

The Maccabees have always been earmarked as a “cult” band; much like The Cribs or The Rifles. Bands with extremely loyal followings, but bands which often miss the larger commercial successes of their louder, brasher, musical cousins; Kasabian, Oasis, The Libertines, etc.

Current fanbase aside, this new album has definitely seen the band embark upon new social and musical territory; and there is a strong likelihood that The Maccabees will gain new listeners and fans for their already sizeable pack following this tour. At the Birmingham show there was an  murmur  travelling through the crowd; a Chinese whisper of tension, excitement and anticipation, even before the lads made their way onto the stage. The room was dark, and the fans faces were moody and surly; something that only added to the atmosphere! The only light in the venue was from a lowly projector; it set the ambience for the opening song, “Child”, the first song off their new album.

“Feel To Follow” followed after, before the lads launched into “Lego”; then there was a significant surge forward by the crowd as the  band picked up the tempo  with “William Powers”. Leading man, Orlando Weeks took a few seconds after these three to welcome the crowd to the show and to ask if everyone was having a good night. It was a quick quip though, and the band fell back into another new track, “Went Away”.

Two of the bands most well known songs “Precious Time” & “X-ray” picked up the crowd’s slightly dwindling enthusiasm for the new music and for the rest of the set the band was careful to balance the old with the new material. After all, every successful band knows how important it is to give the crowd some tunes they are familiar with, when premiering a new album. This predominantly “laddish” crowd demanded songs they could sing along to like a football anthem. In this sense, “X Ray” delivered; it was a great example of such a sing-along track that goes down well for the band. “X Ray” well instantly received by the crowd and acted almost like a call to arms for the more inebriated members of the throng. The mosh pit was now on and continued to grow from that point on!

Other musical highlights were: “Can You Give It”. The general pace of the night was upbeat; the room was littered with strobe lights; and grandiose endings made many of the new songs sound like finale numbers that just kept on coming.

Halfway through the show, and everyone was pretty warm and sweaty; we were given a  bit of a breather in “No Kind Words”; however even this more chilled out tune picked up the at the end and got people moving again. Maccabees have always crafted their songs ‘on purpose’ and this intelligence and comprehension of their crowd control, has only improved with age.

“Pelican” showcased the bands new, increasingly mature approach to life with lyrics that hinted that they are long past the days of their uncertain youth: “To have it all and still want more, One things for sure we’re all getting older”. This was another moment that made us think of The Rifles and the similarity between the two bands musical characters.

The official closing track of the  night was “Love you Better”; their biggest and most popular song to date. The crowd were jumping throughout the majority of the track and on their feet as the band left the stage. An inevitable and predictable encore followed with “Unknown” – one of the most upbeat songs the new album has to offer; “First Love” [a staple in the lads set lists], and they ended the show with “Grew Up at Midnight”.

Beer was thrown across the crowd, the odd shoe came flying past our noses; but everyone was there to have a good time and that is exactly what we all had! These lads have grown up a lot over the past few years; their fans are on pace with them. Don’t be surprised if this album works it way up the charts over the course of the 2012. Its a silent, steady creeper. Enjoy your success lads, you have worked hard for it.

© Andrew Hughes with Ngawara Madison, Music Vice

Photos of The Maccabees at HMV Institute, Birmingham:

Internet links: The Maccabees

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