Bagging tickets for the ‘bees has taken a while for me but my long-time-coming luck came around on the 19th of November, as they treated Newcastle’s O2 Academy to the second show of their tour. As the sun set on Thursday evening, fan queued to escape the sharp winter chill to be greeted by the grunge rock tunes of Drenge. A debatably unusual choice of support for The Maccabees, yet a popular pick nevertheless.
The three-piece got the crowd going with some crowd-pleasers including ‘We Can Do Want We Want’ and ‘Backwaters’. Dancing and singing filtered through the crowd and it became contagious; soon enough everyone was bobbing along. After successfully warming up the Academy, the brothers ended their set and the room was left waiting as the roadies set up – before we knew it, it was Maccabees time.
The lights dimmed and cheers erupted across the room as the band immediately propelled into the title track, ‘Marks to Prove It’. A song filled with fluctuating guitar riffs and spontaneous bursts of energy. It’s been a wait of nearly three years teamed with a whole lot of hours spent in the studio, but from the crowd’s instantaneous reaction; it was evidently worth it. Their set was of course predominantly focused on the latest record, but that didn’t stop them from delving into ‘Given to the Wild’, ‘Wall of Arms’ and ‘Colour It In’. Orlando Weeks’ unique voice was on top form yet it was clear that his confidence is still lacking somewhat, which is particularly adorning. Felix did most of the talking, the usual ‘thank-you’s’ and ‘how we doing Newcastle?!’ He even told the story of when the band were ‘stuck’ in the Toon for a month, during a previous tour, in this corner of the country because Hugo was ill. I’m not sure the use of the word ‘stuck’ was particularly wise as they were playing to a room with a substantial amount of Geordie’s in, but nonetheless it was refreshing to hear a more personal anecdote; something they wouldn’t say at every single gig.
Things turned pretty emotional for Hugo during ‘Silence’. It’s a song of sincere, heartfelt loss – ‘That’s when I shut down my relationships / Watch them floating out to sea’. The sorrow shone through intensely during the performance as his brother Felix mimed along and gave him a reassuring tap on the back at the end. The album as a whole is a mixing pot of lyrical jewels and in some sense, much more mature and much darker than the previous records. But when played live, the album was just as enthralling as the old ones. The Maccabees have a true talent to make for an intimate gig despite how packed the venue was. Every lyric was sung back to the band and you could really see how much they appreciated the support as they smiled modestly to themselves. They left the stage after ‘Grew Up At Midnight’ but were summoned back on by the demanding fans who began chanting, ‘We want more, we want more!’ in unity.
The encore consisted of four more treats including the timeless classic ‘Toothpaste Kisses’ for which everyone melted into as Hugo sat down and Orlando whistled along. They ended on a high with ‘Pelican’, leaving the crowd musically satisfied and each fan with a grin plastered on their face. Kudos to The Maccabees, they put on a brilliant set.