Leeds Academy - 22/05/2009
A far more illustrious publication than us pointed out the irony of a song called ‘Questing, Not Coasting’ on Maxïmo Park’s latest album so I’m not even going to pretend that it’s my own line.
However, as they launch into their encore it’s perhaps never been more apt.
Yet this is a band who I saw support the Futureheads in the dingy Academy 2 some four years ago. While the fortunes of both bands couldn’t possibly be more divergent, the display on show here only goes to make the decline of the Futureheads more poignant. For Maxïmo Park are at their best as an angry roaring beast, and it doesn’t exactly take a degree to notice the shift in energies between the old favourites which have my middle age companions (more on that later) dancing in the aisles, and the newer tracks off ‘Quicken the Heart’.
The argument for this could quite convincingly be put forward, that the album’s only been out a little over a week but I can’t help but feel that at times ‘Quicken the Heart’ feels a little like a damp squib next to tracks like ‘Limassol’ and ‘Apply Some Pressure’. Maybe Paul Smith and co are trying for a more expansive and developed sound but it’s a little too infrequent, and on tracks like ‘Questing, Not Coasting’ doesn’t quite feel fully formed.
Indeed it’s arguable that only a couple of tracks even get close to recreating the excitement of the previous two albums, like ‘Calm’ or ‘The Kids Are Sick Again’ with some very tight riffs. It’s awkward to be complaining about bands who’ve obviously tried to evolve on their juddery (yes I have just made that word up) style of quick fire verse and guitars but the people are here to dance not listen to slightly wandering songs about love and loss.
Am I being too negative? Probably, because ultimately when Maxïmo Park get down to it they are very entertaining. From his stepping stone, Paul Smith conducts the crowd gamely with a loudspeaker in one hand and uninhibited dancing style which seems to owe more to Michael Jackson than slightly sozzled Dad. He couldn’t really be anymore different to the League of Gentlemen type character that at one point started reading from a book as he sung a song some four years ago.
As a band they’ve come a long way from that act which people looked at in surprise signed to a predominantly dance orientated label. Shows like this are testament to that. However it’s the bands roots which raise the biggest cheers on the night and while as a show you can’t help but be impressed by the performance it just drops a little flat with the newer songs shifting the pace down. Which I suppose brings me back to my initial point, however would I be in the same position if the band had produced an album that didn’t try anything new? Again probably, let’s face it in the media your damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
In the end, other than the light show which may well have turned me into an epileptic, I left feeling satisfied with a good performance but little more. But hey what do I know? In the wide demographic of people dancing around me, I saw some very effective air guitar, some unashamedly gyrating hips, energetic bouncing on the spot, and a man in his middle years wearing a power vest. That at the end of the day is what it’s all about.