Maximo Park

Maxïmo Park continue the quest at Manchester Apollo More

Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Sunday, October 11th, 2009

Maxïmo Park at The Apollo, Manchester

"This is a song that all the band have fallen in love with" says Paul Smith as his band - and a four piece brass sections snuck onto the side of the stage - dive headlong into Questing, Not Coasting.

This is Dalliance's second Maxïmo Park of the year - the first in Leeds having been just after the release of the bands third album Quicken The Heart - and in the months between the two which have seen the band festival playing and touring a set of songs that the North Easteners clearly burst with pride little has changed about the show and the liveliness of it.

There is a few guys adding a brass section to some of the songs and this allows the Pulp-esque Acrobat with its spoken word vocal to be added to the encore but on the whole the set is the same and teething troubles of introducing an audience to new material has been conquered.

It is singer Smith, of course, who maketh the band with his powerful stage presence a mix of sprightly pouncing and the ability to project the more tender moments of his lyrics. That he very probably is the best front man to tread this boards since Morrissey is as much for his bowed headed emotes as the on speaker air punching of Apply Some Pressure.

Questing, Not Coasting is a pinnacle with Smith flicking from desperate lothario to born again romantic adding a baroque performance to the melodrama of the stormy Newcastle night his lyrics paint.

Lyrics which mature with Quicken The Heart which this writer believes will be seen as a superior work to those which proceeded it in the fullness of time nestling alongside the likes of Seamonsters and Black Sheep Boy as definitive third albums. That, for a band for whom live performances of the quality that is seen in The Apollo tonight are the norm, suggests that unlike the peers they so quickly leave behind Maximo Park have the best years ahead of them.

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A weekend at Reading, half of the fun More

Live Review

Written By Rebecca Price Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

Dananananaykroyd, Manchester Orchestra, The Virgins, The Airborne Toxic Event, Little Boots, Funeral For A Friend, Deftones, Fall Out Boy, The Big Pink, Placebo, Friendly Fires, Jamie T, Kings of Leon, Faith No More, Mariachi El Bronx, Fightstar, The Rakes, Eagles of Death Metal, Them Crooked Vultures, Patrick Wolf, Ian Brown, Maxïmo Park, The Prodigy, Arctic Monkeys, Broadway Calls, Noah and The Whale, Lethal Bizzle, The Living End, Metronomy, Brand New, Vampire Weekend, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Bloc Party and Radiohead. at Reading Festival

August Bank Holiday, and once again thousands flock to either Reading or Leeds to wear silly hats for three days of binge drinking, post-apocalyptic camping and occasionally a bit of music too. Here is your whirlwind guide to that latter part, starting with Dananananaykroyd, who are worth the stupid name. They’re gloriously chaotic fun as a live act and wake up the early attendees in the NME tent with their double drummers and tendency to play skipping games with lead wires or attack each other with microphones. Pity Manchester Orchestra can’t really match up, their slightly dull rock thudding on until the much hyped Virgins come onstage. Heard of The Virgins? You know, the oh-so cool New York band who play guitars and sing about girls and stuff? Don’t bother if you haven’t. They’re actually quite ignorable, but let the hipsters have their fun.

The Airborne Toxic Event are more interesting, even though they look a bit like they’ve been constructed from Arcade Fire’s cast off clothes and leftover instruments. They also share a similar taste for expanding pop rock into something a little more grandiose, but not quite epic yet. They do have a sizable cult following, so hopefully its A Sign Of Things To Come. Next Little Boots – seemingly the runner up in the current Pop Female epidemic – sings nice Kylie Minogue type songs that she wrote all by herself on a thing that looks like an etch-a-sketch with little bleeping lights on it (it’s called a Tenori-on, it makes music, it costs £789, I want one).

Now we move to the mainstage, only to find Funeral For A Friend playing stroppy sulky music to stroppy sulky kids – a surprise to those of us who assumed everyone must have grown out of them by now. Deftones provide a similar sort of thing, only louder and a little bit more metally, bless them, until Fall Out Boy arrive. Now, I’m 17. I know far too many people who think Fall Out Boy are the voice of our generation, with a sharp wit and some killer tunes too. I personally think they are shit, and the set they play at Reading seems to satisfy both sides. Kids in Vans shoes and skinny grey hoodies go wild at finally seeing their heroes, while I just feel old. I don’t get this. It’s whiny, dull, and nothing special, ok?

Time for something more obscure and credible, so off to the Festival Republic stage to see The Big Pink, who specialise in trippy guitars and cool noises, like My Bloody Valentine with the safety on. It’d be interesting to hear them on record. But then back to main stage for yet more teenage angst from people way past adolescence, as Placebo are providing a slightly older generation with their own whiny songs about girls and boys and painkillers via a grown man in eyeliner. Their set is thick with new material, unwise to play for a festival, and so they fall a little flat.

Back to NME to get some colour kicked into the veins, as Friendly Fires prove to be enjoyable, with crowds bouncing around and basslines throbbing, and then Jamie T comes on. Before Faith No More were announced, Jamie T was the Friday headliner for this second largest tent, even though he was the sound of three summers ago and has never really made a lasting impression on the general public, but he turns out to be better than expected – his songs are upbeat and he clearly is more talented than his cheeky busker reputation would allow.

Sadly once he finishes, the tent drains as everybody goes to watch Kings of Leon, but as I don’t really want to listen to a band whose biggest hit will be turned into a thrush cream advert one day (you know the song I mean), I stay for Faith No More. Smart plan. Although they are chiefly a heavy rock band often verging on metal, they are smarter than the average band, with a wealth of musical styles at their disposal – as anyone who knows them by that Lionel Ritchie cover should know. So while they open with their melodica-driven version of the theme from Midnight Cowboy, they then blast through a selection of pulsing, adrenalised classics, thus bringing proper rock to the festival on a year where it has been a little light, and still throwing in the Eastenders theme (twice) or a singing lesson when they feel like it. Superb.

Incidentally, Kings of Leon were apparently terrible. It says something that when the thrush cream song gets played over the speakers later in the week, the entire crowd boo so loudly they are forced to change the track before the singing even starts. Oh dear.

Saturday brings the sunshine, and Mariachi El Bronx set the mood with some vaguely flamencoey stuff, including the jackets, which does make the whole thing look a bit like a tacky side project (it is. The Bronx proper are playing another stage later). It isn’t bad though. Fightstar arrive, where the one with the eyebrows out of Busted tries to play grown up music, but fails – at least Busted could write a tune, even if they did have lyrics like Year 3000.

The Rakes come on, and are an improvement - their catchy indie guitar music is pretty good but they sadly ignore their more complex work like Suspicious Eyes. Eagles of Death Metal prove to be utterly pointless – the singer may as well shouted ‘I’m friends with Josh Homme, y’know’ and walked off. The biggest cheers are when the crowd see Dave Grohl lurking by the sides on the screens.

This proves to be the giveaway that the rumoured supergroup Them Crooked Vultures really are the mystery band playing NME later. They feature Dave Grohl, Josh Homme and John Paul Jones – all of whom have been in better bands than Eagles of Death Metal. There is a mass exodus to the tent, but first Patrick Wolf has to play, pretentious idiot. He looks like the opening act on a Spinal Tap gay cabaret tour. It’s possible that he can only fit into those outfits after tearing his own genitals off from the sheer thought of himself. No matter, he preens about the stage, climbing the lighting rigs, singing Madonna covers and other things with bleeps and strings and stuff that probably don’t sound as good as they did in his head. Never mind, because Them Crooked Vultures finally come out to a sea of camera phones and shrieks of ‘OhMyGodIt’sDaveGrohl!’(a living member of Led Zeppelin and the world’s only cool ginger are simply not impressive enough for these people). But the group do impress – these are still three very strong talents – and there will be hundreds of people pretending they came to see them later on.

Ian Brown proves to be a little saddening. It’s not that the music is bad – the solo stuff is pretty good, if unfamiliar, and the rolling bassline of Fool’s Gold makes the crowd do a ‘wow, a Roses track!’ double take. Sadly, it’s this old classic that highlights how poor his voice has become in the past twenty years. It sounds like a strained man attempting karaoke instead of the smooth whisper-hum of glory days. I’m sure my own inner 15 year old isn’t the only one feeling a little let down.

But cheer up, because Maxïmo Park are here to grab the attention of a crowd bored with the appearance of just-another-indie-band. Paul Smith gyrates around with his bowler hat, occasionally reading from books on stage. They’re a little more captivating than the Rakes were, anyhow, but this is a trivial comparision when compared to The Prodigy. My god, they’re even raving it up in the gourmet noodle stands. Far from pot bellied embarrassments, they still have the ferocious energy to make everyone from the age of twelve to sixty attempt to kill each other in large, wild circle pits. And if you think the set is crazy, try surviving the rush for water afterwards.

But now is the time for Arctic Monkeys. It seems like just yesterday they were those lovable northern scallywags, posterboys of the ‘MySpace Revolution’, who sounded like the coolest band in history to have ever played a youth club. But now they’re all grown up, with long hair and albums recorded in deserts, and the transformation really comes through. Allthough Humbug was only released the day most people arrived on site, the songs are well received, with a darker and more complex tone than the earlier hits, though those are of course the ones that get everyone singing along. The exchange of favourites such as Mardy Bum or A Certain Romance for obscure Nick Cave covers and large amounts of new material causes murmurs of agreement when somebody shouts ‘PLAY SOMETHING DECENT, YOU C***S!’, but never mind them. Arctic Monkeys have proven that it is possible to remain both fresh and well loved for years after that initial terrifying rush of hype. Well done.

Sunday is grey weather and a bleary-eyed collective hangover. I wander from stage to stage for the first bit, and the ones I stayed for thirty seconds of I’m not going to mention here. Broadway Calls are a bunch of Green Day rip offs – even their posture reminds me of their old videos. Noah and The Whale really surprise me – I couldn’t stand Five Years Time, and thought that the rest of their material would be the same. In fact, their music sounds like pale blue waves crashing on silvery grey pebbles, and as they don’t play any ukulele songs they alienate everyone in the crowd but win me over.

Lethal Bizzle’s moron rap keeps the crowds happy, but I instead make a few visits to the alternative tent for some comedy (Andy Robinson is one of those middle aged grumps who actually cross the generation barriers, Daniel Townes has his own obscene brilliance, and Jeremy Hardy should go away back to Radio 4). The Living End I didn’t see a lot of either, not that I seemed to miss much, but Metronomy’s furious maths rock beats make them the most attention grabbing band of the day so far – though Brand New’s use of feedback and guitar noises also prick up the ears.

Now we reach the Big Bands, the final few acts that everyone has heard of. Vampire Weekend are still cool, bobbing about with their second generation afro beat rhythms, and most of their new material promises much of the same (though there’s none quite like A Punk or Oxford Comma). Yeah Yeah Yeahs are mostly centred around Karen O’s bizarre costume (It’s a parrot! It’s a boiled sweet zebra! It’s a giant beach towel!), but the music itself is worth it. Although their new album drifted more into electro-pop, all aspects of their career are squished together wonderfully in one stomping performance.

Bloc Party have played roughly this same spot on the Reading/Leeds bill for several years – some wristband-toting veterans are getting a bit sick of them (as are most of the people who ever heard anything off Intimacy, let’s be honest), and while Mercury sounds even worse than it did on record, no one really minds – there are lasers and circle pits and those good old fashioned angular guitars and everybody is happy. Turns out that this is the 10th anniversary of key band members meeting each other at this very festival, and even though I can barely see the stage, they have got their act together live again with this homecoming, which is reassuring considering what that new single sounds like.

The final – and probably best – band of the weekend is Radiohead. They are unpredictable and surprising – they even start off with Creep – mixing all their styles and eras together. So the set may seem to concentrate on the later, electronic stuff, until you count up and realise they’ve played half of OK Computer (and just when you think they’re never going to play a certain song, they do). Their songs are filled with wonder and power, ever impressive and dazzling. And their stage set looks like they’re playing in the giant CCTV room of a lighting warehouse. There are moments for staring at the stage in awe, followed by songs where the audience all jump and dive at each other, disproving the idea everyone spends Radiohead shows with their arms folded, waiting to be impressed. But then, they are impressive.

Wonderful, exhilarating, beautiful, whatever, finished. The speakers tell everybody we’ll meet again next year, then turf us out into the Millets wilderness of the campsites on Tent Burning Night. This year could easily have fallen flat – a lot of recycled bands from recent years and a huge proportion of recently released material are not a good combination for any festival – but instead some superb headliners, strong supporting acts and nice surprises from the more obscure acts meant that 2009 has not been a weak year at all. Of course there’s been plenty of rubbish too – but half the fun is in mocking them, isn’t it?

A Certain Trigger Loses Some Pressure To Quicken The Heart With Our Earthly Pleasures… More

Live Review

Written By Ria Wilkinson Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

Gramattics and Maxïmo Park at 02 Academy, Leeds

Maxïmo Park are, at last, unleashed on a long awaited tour.

The third album Quicken The Heart is out of the trap and the pressure has been applied. Both tour and new material are now up for critical review, however the overwhelming feeling from the band is that pressure has been lost as the dye is now cast.

The night before whilst tweebopping at The Pains Of Being Pure Of Heart gig at the Cockpit we had managed to accidentally assimilate Paul Smith, his lovely other half and fellow band mate Lukas Wooller temporarily into our nine strong group. It was there that Paul was informed by one of us that he was “a decent front man” and his band were “good, yeah” - high praise indeed…

Having a night off locally prior to their own gig, Paul and Lukas were excited about viewing the POBPAH after giving the album a lot of love. Lukas mentioned that Maximo Park’s tour was going brilliantly and also that it was a relief to get the album out eventually after sitting on the material for what felt like ages. This seems a common angst of publishing albums (unless you throw it out there as soon as, Jack White style). The release is being able to proudly introduce this new material to not only to expectant salivating fans but also to it’s older album siblings with whom it will eventually jostle for love and affection as “newness” fades.

So the stage was set for an effervescence of verve, energy, zest and passion that is signature Maximo Park.

On the night support came from Stricken City – 80s indie influenced 4 piece from London way and also Grammatics – 90s indie rock influenced 4 piece from Leeds.

Grammatics had been brought in at last minute to replace Noisettes – “blues-rock, soul power and grrrl attack trio” from London, which I perceived as a bit of a shame. Noisettes apparently were pulled the tour as they’d not gone down as well as hoped. It was suggested that perhaps they’d have been better off with their own tour after the success of single Don’t Upset The Rhythm pushed their profile unexpectedly higher after they had already signed up to the support act.

Noisettes’ loss is Grammatics’ gain and being local lads (and lass) their set was well received and included an inventive cover of Justice vs. Simian‘s We Are Your Friends.

On to the main event. Through the puffs of dry ice reminiscent of a resting dragon, Maximo Park emerged through the cloud of mystery on stage to slot in behind their various instruments. Birthday boy Tom English on drums, Archis Tiku on bass both provided the pulse of Maximo Park in an understated style, local lad Lukas Wooller (from Huddersfield way) punched and stroked the keys and Duncan Lloyd gave both brawn and indeed guitar melody and of course, Paul Smith resplendent as ever in sharp aubergine suit and omnipresent headwear - this time a fedora, took possession of the mic.

After greeting the crowd with a local dialect pleasing “Leeeeeds”, they launched into The Coast Is Always Changing - their very first single. It succeeded in getting the crowd in the zone and we all sang the lyrics anthemically. Although preaching to the already converted, Paul informed us they have a new album out with a feeling of pride and also a tinge of shyness. However, as first taster of Quicken The Heart, Wraithlike kicked in, all timidity was shed and the zeal for the new material shone through. A siren ramped up the energy as Paul waved about a megaphone using it to selectively to enhance the lyrics. Delighted with the reception of Wraithlike, it was joined by album mate The Penultimate Clinch, and although not a single, a significant amount of the audience knew the lyrics.

Paul Smith of Maximo Park on stage in Leeds

Maximo Park have stagecraft honed. They gave honest thanks for the enthusiasm for the new material, but ever conscious of including material old and new to draw in all the crowd, they moved with great agility through Our Velocity and then I Want You To Stay which featured a satisfying solo from Duncan Lloyd.

Tonight, however, was about showcasing the new album and so we returned to it with I Haven’t Seen Her In Ages and Overland, West Of Suez from towards the album end. The latter track was noticeably less known by the crowd but the verve of the band and Paul playing King Of The Castle standing on the speakers to gain height above the crowd relayed the band’s passion to infect the crowd.

The audience was rewarded with Books From Boxes before a quip about new favourite Let’s Get Clinical being an ode to Marvin Gaye‘s Let‘s Get It On. Paul’s face was as expressive as ever and watching him strut, leap, enunciate and emote was akin to a RSC production and was appropriately captivating. Going Missing lead to further waving and thrusting of the mic stand punctuating the lyrics as if a spear used by a chief to rally his tribe into battle.

A couple of new tracks Tanned and Roller Disco Dreams mellowed down the mood and came to life from the new album. An explanation that the latter track was inspired by a girl in an oversized grey jumper further serving to endear the new material to the bosom. It was noted that the slower pace of the new songs seemed to act as a counterpoint to the more frenetic pace of the older tracks. However an upbeat tempo or more megaphone activity did not conceal the dark heart of favourite Limassol and the holiday angst theme continued with recent single The Kids Are Sick Again instigating more audience incantation.

The short, snappy The Night I Lost My Head lament saw the use of the trademark scissor leap from Paul, the light show from behind perfectly marking out his distinctive silhouette. The set signed off with Girls Who Play Guitars featuring spontaneous Freddy Mercury style mic grabs for which unnecessary apologies were issued.

Smith’s performance whilst free spirited was also occasionally self aware. In getting carried in the way in the moment, he may have looked a bit daft and some self depreciation kicked in.

A brief interlude enabled an encore that premièred a really interesting new track not on Quicken The Heart. It was entitled That Beating Heart and was quite downbeat, shot through with essences of How Soon Is Now? and the noise of Depeche Mode to really let Lukas shine on keyboards. It was an unusual start to an encore - something so downbeat and totally unfamiliar and there was a sense of apology about that in the introduction from Paul which also tainted Questing, Not Coasting, the next track, so that even though the audience was familiar with this album track, there wasn’t the sing along other tracks had been treated with earlier in the set.

At this point, Paul mentioned his sojourn to the Cockpit the previous night …“A nice chap said he remembered us playing there and it was one of his favourite ever shows, which was super-nice of him.” much to our personal amusement. Mirth turned to mosh as Apply Some Pressure restored uplift to round off the encore and left the audience out of breath with from impassioned bouncing and singing.

As gigs go, I found it one the best I’ve attended for some time.

This wasn’t my first viewing of Maximo Park - they converted me some time ago with their synergy of fantastic melodies, empathetic, detailed lyrics and captivating live performance and they delivered above and beyond my hopes for the gig.

The other half accompanied me to this gig who had yet to see them, and he’d had his ear bent off enough about how good they were. Despite the hype, he understood why it was I had raved about them and was impressed - quite an achievement! I had heard that on a previous night of this tour had yielded a sub-hour set duration and focus almost entirely on the new album. However our gig was about 75 minutes, covered 19 tracks (two albums worth!) and included a really crowd pleasing ratio of old, new and newer material still, I think is defence enough. I could have enjoyed more focus on the new album as stand out tracks like Calm and In Another World didn’t get a look in this time around.

Maximo Park tick more boxes that most from my demanding list of wants from a band and yet they are still small enough to watch in a venue that doesn’t require binoculars. I’d suggest they’re a bit of a hidden gem of the British music scene and part of me hopes they stay that way.

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The Paul Smith Show Returns To Town More

Live Review

Written By Ria Wilkinson Sunday, December 16th, 2007

Maxïmo Park, The Buzzcocks, Good Shoes at Metroradio Arena, Newcastle Upon Tyne

This review comes to you from notes scrawled in the dark upon toilet roll within the gig. Fortunately, it’s the soft, strong and long variety which are attributes I now know are valuable not only to staving the running nose of a cold (the original intent) but also for impromptu note taking! This is a spontaneous and also my freshman gig review, next time I’ll go better prepared–promise!

At 7.30pm, Newcastle's Metroradio Arena’s 10,000+ capacity is impressively busy considering the main act are not on for at least another two hours. The air is full of expectation of the homecoming gig for Maxïmo Park but before that we are to be primed for their “post-punk” performance with a couple of supports including the “special guests”.

Just after 7.30pm a gang of four lads decked out in Santa jackets, green tights and tinsel festooned Santa hats nervously shuffle in a loose pack onto the blank canvas of the stage. They are Good Shoes, the opening act.

They welcome us to the show and openly admit they are somewhat intimidated by the size of the venue they are playing tonight but in the next thirty five minutes they will hold their own in the arena as it continues to fill. They whip through ten tracks from this years debut album "Think Before You Speak" building confidence from behind their instruments and really getting into their stride on the second track, Never Meant To Hurt You. Good Shoes clearly grow as the audience recognise the single and bounce along to the staccato rhythm and this encourages them to fit in some good banter with crowd about Christmas and the distance some of the audience had travelled. Further tracks enthusiastically attacked include Ice Age, Blue Eyes and the Maximo Park flavoured Sophia. The end of the set is built up and the stamp is left on the audience memory with two other singles, We’re Not The Same and the finale of the Young Knives zested All In My Head.

Then suddenly the rapid fire, frenetic set is done and after commenting on it being so cold there was mist in the arena (actually some escaped dry ice), Good Shoes saunter off the stage having successfully charmed their biggest venue.

Speculation of who the “Special Guests” were to be when the gig was announced favoured The Futureheads as a celebration of North East post-punk by demonstrating the festive season of good will of joining Tyneside and Wearside music together. This would have gone down a treat if it had any impact like the awakening and participation of the crowd to the The Futureheads “Hounds of Love” has, when it is played amongst Modest Mouse et al during the interval.

At about 8.30pm we are in for a lesson in punk history and to have the dots joined between influence and interpretation as The Buzzcocks nonchalantly swaggered on stage in the half filled arena. In contrast to Good Shoes, there are no festive orientated gimmicks in costume here, although both the drummer and a guitarist looked as though they have just left an office Christmas party in their purposefully disheveled shirts and ties.

Without any real attempt to engage with the audience, they launch into a thirty five minute set that sweeps through their back catalogue in eleven tracks. After several metamorphoses over the years, the Buzzcocks original line up has clearly changed as the drummer and bassist looked rather younger than Pete Shelley. The first couple of tracks are knocked out and then clearly warming up, Shelley sheds his fatigues style jacket to a matching disheveled shirt and the trademark black with the red stripe military style pants. At this point the guitarist takes over vocal duty providing a bit of contrast to the previous familiar pitch of Buzzcock vocals.

As with Good Shoes, tracks are thrashed out in rapid succession but somehow lack the passion of the younger band. Even the favourites What Happened To...?, What Do I Get?, Why She’s A Girl From A Chainstore have a feeling of a group playing on autopilot. By the time the penultimate, and surely much anticipated Ever Fallen In Love... is performed, it feels very much like listening to a good soundalike covers band in a pub - only with less verve. It is no surprise that Ever Fallen... is their most infamous track, it has more melody then the rest of their material showcased here.

The set draws to a close with Orgasm Addict where the Buzzcocks do seem to pour a little more of themselves into the execution but it’s a little late in the game to persuade it wasn’t an indifferent performance of a number of tracks that seem to meld into one. If this is selling original punk, then today I wouldn’t be buying. As I was not present to witness punk when it meant something, it is sadly probably a little lost on me as original when today there is so much derivative of it about.

The stage is prepared and a newly positioned white drum kit certainly stands out against the black backdrop, as do the strategically placed orange towels and water bottles. At 9.45pm the arena must be near if not at capacity as main stars of the show start their homecoming set. Red and white lights flick through the glass panels at the back of the black stage to a simple sound of (possibly) a vibraphone that creates a meditative feeling as the audience hushes and then begins whooping in anticipation. With simple geometric shapes and a colour scheme of black, white and red it is reminiscent of the White Stripes but it is Maximo Park’s gig tonight.

From out of the black, four of the band emerge together and almost jog to their positions behind the white drum kit, the keyboard, etc such is their keenness to start. They are dressed in black, save for the keyboardist in a white t-shirt.

A moment later, Paul Smith canters out. He is resplendent in a black suit and tie, a red shirt and red patent shoes that catch the light, and let’s not forget the signature black bowler in place over his jaw length mop of hair. He energetically leaps on to the platform of the drum kit and launches up into his star kick jump that will come to punctuate the set as he bounds the length of the stage.

The Paul Smith show has begun.

The music immediately segues into the opening track both of the set and their second album “Our Earthly Pleasures” - Girls Who Play Guitars. The audience is alive with recognition and sings the lyrics along passionately as they transfix on Smith as he constantly moves across the stage in the full three dimensions. His voice is powerful, clear and northeastern lilted as the vocals on the record and easily fills the arena.

The twin screens next to the stage allow us to easily see the detail of Smith’s face as he sings the emphasis and emotion of the lyrics through his large forlorn yet fierce eyes and heavy brows. The track ends and he welcomes the crowd, dedicates the gig to the people that paid to get in and explains how they started the year playing tinier venues locally like the Cluny and were amazed to be finishing it in the arena. Graffiti, a single from the first album “A Certain Trigger”, is next and is greeted with the warmth of an old friend and with barely a breath to pause the third track to be unveiled is A Fortnights Time. Although lesser known, the devilish mischief in Smith’s eyes as he rallies the lyric “ will be mine!” and the charm of “Would you like to go on a date with me?” takes the audience into the tale of setting sights on the prey of a romantic interest.

After maintaining his ferocious gallivant around the stage through The Coast Is Always Changing – another singalong anthem, and love song Parisan Skies, the black jacket is shed for Russian Literature. This reveals the red shirt further to allow Smith to be picked out across the stage better as he bounces and jumps with the keyboardist who is also giving it some during the tracks as far as staying connected to the keys allows.

There are odd moments snatched between the tracks where Smith pants as he explains how much the band feel connected to Newcastle despite none of them coming from the city precisely and to explain a little of meaning or relevance of some songs. This in particular dovetails into the slower paced I Want You To Stay (the final single from A Certain Trigger) with tales of “cranes collecting the sky” striking a recognition chord in the locals in the audience. The track is accompanied by an intense white light show which enhances the echo refrain of “You’re always my reminder!”. To continue to theme of tracks with references that the natives of the evening will enjoy the most, the next track is By The Monument which the crowd relishes singing.

Up to this point, the eight tracks have all been faithfully recreated from the album sound apart from the variation in dramatic delivery of the lyrics. Smith explains that Maximo Park have wanted to experiment with the performance of some tracks using strings that are present on the album but not normally in performance and accordingly a cellist, violinist and a vibraphonist are stationed next to the drummer on his platform. Their contribution starts on recent single Karaoke Plays and the strings in particular add a richness to the music as it swells beneath Smith’s distressing despair as he delivers the chorus.

Your Urge – normally quite a frenetic track, is served much stripped down of guitar and drums to allow the guest instruments to provide an almost filmic quality for half the track before the guitar and drums launch back in to bring it to a desperate close. The guest instruments are present for a further song, the uplifting Sandblasted and Set Free but are mostly lost in the surge of keyboard and guitar.

At this point, the audience is enquired whether it fancies at bit of dancing, to ‘“rock your body” as Justin might say’. There is anticipation in the crowd that perhaps now the set is eleven tracks in, there is potential for mixing it up by introducing a cover – the hint here pointing towards the “Like I Love You” from Justin Timberlake covered with great panache and deftness by Maximo Park for the recent celebrations of Radio 1’s 40 birthday. In the middle of this exchange with the audience, a green laser projection is accidentally lit prematurely and the cat is declared out of the bag...there is a quite a lengthy simple electronic keyboard intro that sounds similar to The Unshockable but could easily be turned to Timberlake and after a few notes in, it is The Unshockable and Justin will not be outdone here tonight. There is a tinge of disappointment in the audience but the intensity and rousing melody of the song soon gets the crowd back into the spirit despite the negative message of the lyrics.

Smith works the crowd more vigourously leaping about from stage end podium to platform throwing in a repertoire of kicks, jumps and encouraging arm gestures to invite further singing and dancing from the spectators. It is hardly any surprise when he stunt collapses, panting, at the foot of the drums platform to demonstrate his exertion! Quickly he leaps up and to catch his breath, he dedicates to next song, Apply Some Pressure, to the family and friends of the group and the crowd attacks the chorus of “What happens when you lose everything? You just start again. You start all over again...” with glee. The battle between energetic stage antics and dapper outfit is finally being won by the antics when the black is removed prior to Nosebleed although the bowler had remains firmly in place.

There is the odd minor squeak of feedback and the end of the set is felt to be nearing so there is that wistful hope that they will play the favourites. Maximo Park do not disappoint with a strong performance of popular first album track Limassol and end the set with the first single of the most recent album “Our Velocity” which is ferverently sung along to by the masses as if a hymn and played against a backdrop of random numbers to fit the line “numbers fill the screen, and you’re expected to know they mean”. As the music dies away, the applause, cheers and whistles fill the arena where the music had only seconds ago and as the lights raise to the band bowing and thanking the Newcastle crowd assured that as long as the word “Newcastle” is said, whoops will ensue.

The band take off for the back stage after wishing festive greetings to the audience. Roadies enter the stage and all eyes are trained on them to determine an indication of an encore... sure enough a speaker is being replaced not removed and all eyes stay trained on the stage for the return...

Ten minutes later, Paul (now in a black short sleeved shirt) and the gang do return to the stage much to the joy of crowd which is perceptible by the applause and cheers. There is a now a rug out for the bassist to stand on and they are also rejoined by the cellist, violist and vibraphonist.

The process of elimination of playing most of their back catalogue (sixteen tracks by now), allows some educated guessing. However, they open their encore with Acrobat the penultimate track from “A Certain Trigger”. It’s an interesting choice and a total contrast to the previous closer Our Velocity in pace, sentiment, familiarity for the crowd for it’s not one of their most known tracks. For the either album, it marks a change of sound for Maximo Park, not least because the verses are recited in contrast to a sung chorus and this stillness is layered over a simple, buzzy, distorted guitar noise more akin to Kevin Shields, or The Radio Dept then the punchy, immediacy of Maximo Park’s signature style. “Acrobat” is played somberly and tenderly to match the plaintive, anguished lyrics which are seemly recited from a small red leather bound notebook (brandished earlier in the set when leaping about) held aloft by Smith as he moves minimally within the steady green laser projection.

When the song is finished, it is announced that the track won’t be played again for some time and it was hoped it was enjoyed - possibly suggesting that it’s not a favourite of the group to perform and perhaps the lyrics really were being recited, not just for effect! After than downbeat start to the encore, things are lifted by the still melancholy but bit pacier Books From Boxes which was lapped up. The ultimate finale of the evening was of course the now glaring omission from the set list, Going Missing. Needlessly to say every word is chanted in exuberance of the audience wringing one last drop out of the evening and as the terminal lyrics are spoken, there is a burst of shimmer as strips of black and gold glitter are released from the ceiling of the arena...the set finally ends and once again Maximo Park thank the crowd and sign off by shouting “And they said there was no atmosphere in here [the arena]!” and wander off the stage to the holidays, job done.

And so, at 11.15pm, we wander out into the night. There is the strong impression that it really is the Paul Smith show but when Maximo Park brought him on board in 2003, surely this the reason why – showmanship. Smith writes most of the songs with inputs from the rest of the group, so they are his lyrics and sentiments and not playing an instrument on stage, he has the freedom and indeed the onus to be the performer. This seems to suit the non-exhibitionist group members well (who chose to dress in black so melt away into the backdrop?) and the gives the keyboardist a foil. Maximo Park can certainly fill the arena and no stage seems to be too big for Paul Smith to own.

As the gig considered as a composite, there were a few missed opportunities. Firstly some cross pollination between the acts on would have really gelled the punk “then and now” flavour to the evening, for example, some onstage guesting, or perhaps a creative cover. As it was a festive period (December 15th), a festive cover could have been considered, especially by Good Shoes already decked out accordingly but it’s understandable they would prioritise getting their own material out to the larger audience. Maximo Park could have used the opportunity to perhaps to test the water with a little new material – as least they are on forgiving home territory here- and of course there was the small ripple of disappointment about the Timblerlake cover, but you can’t win them all. Out of all three acts tonight, it is Good Shoes who will take away the most.