The Roundhouse, Camden, a windy Tuesday evening. Having been a huge fan of Maximo Park for the last ten years, the time had finally come for me to see them live, and it was certainly worth the wait…
Following the buoyant garage rock of the extremely enjoyable support, Beverly, Paul Smith and co. make an entrance at about 9.15pm.
As the letters of Maximo Park are illuminated behind the band, ‘Girls Who Play Guitar’ kicks off proceedings, as does Paul Smith – quite literally – as he makes his trademark entrance, scissor-kicking and leaping across the stage. Looking as dapper as I’d expected, the fantastic frontman immediately proves he’s still got it; having heard about the band’s energy-fuelled performances over the years, I had thought that they may have mellowed by now, but – thankfully – it would seem quite the opposite and they exceed all expectations.
As Smith informs us that they’ve “got a little treat in store” for us later, my heart races as a wide selection of songs from over the years are played; from classics from their second album, such as ‘Our Velocity’, through to last year’s ‘Give Get Take’, each track is executed with magnificent gusto and impassioned energy.
“We’re going to play somethin’ rocky, somethin’ rolly, somethin’ guitary and somethin’ synthy… This is the synthy one”, Smith says by way of introduction to 2014’s ‘Leave This Island’ in his charming North Eastern drawl. An absolutely beautiful rendition of one of my favourites, I sing along to every word as this incredible frontman succeeds in immersing the crowd fully in his performance. Throughout more mellow numbers, like this and the heart-rending ‘Books From Boxes’, Smith’s ability to write the most moving of love songs shines through as the band create moments of anthemic power pop.
Then there are those more ‘rocky’ or ‘rolly’ songs, such as ‘Hips And Lips’, as Smith reels across the stage, robot-dancing, scissor-kicking and exuding his unique charisma. And I realise that he is the short fan’s ideal frontman: he never stays in one place for more than a few seconds, he leaps up onto speakers, jumps higher than I thought possible and often leans right over the front of the stage to sing to the adoring crowd – so, there are frequent opportunities to spot him throughout the night, despite my lack of height.
And so to the end of Part 1… A few minutes break and Maximo Park reappear, bathed in deep red light, to match Paul Smith’s outfit change (that infamous red shirt, apparently the very same one worn in the ‘Apply Some Pressure’ video).
As ‘Signal And Sign’ blasts from the stage, it becomes clear what our ‘treat’ is and I turn to the man next to me excitedly, before realising I don’t know him… I soon get over this awkwardness, however, as crowd-favourite ‘Apply Some Pressure’ fills the panoramic venue with unified excitement, every one of us screaming along as Paul Smith shakes his hips and bounds across the stage.
Next up, probably my all time favourite – ‘Graffiti’. If you hadn’t guessed, the aforementioned ‘treat’ is that Maximo Park’s debut album, A Certain Trigger, is being played in its entirety on its 10th anniversary.
Continuing with memorable numbers such as ‘Postcards In A Picture’ (“I still remember the person that this one’s about…”) and ‘Going Missing’, I’m reminded that there really isn’t a track on this album that isn’t as impressive as the last; every single one is an absolute classic that has stood the test of the time.
So, the album continues in order, to the delight of everyone in attendance. That is, until Smith begins to tell the story behind ‘The Coast Is Always Changing’, endearingly dedicating the song to London, before his band mate has to remind him that he has missed out a song. “Just keep that story in mind for a minute”, he tells us, before the pounding, fuzzy intro of the actual next song, ‘Limassol’, flows from the stage.
As the set closes with the timeless and upbeat ‘Kiss You Better’, I’m safe in the knowledge that both the first and second half of the night have been absolutely fantastic. No matter what song Maximo Park are playing, it’s executed with that same intense power and impassioned emotion.
After ten years, being in the presence of Paul Smith’s magnetising charisma, incredible energy, irresistible charm and awesome dance moves was an experience I won’t be forgetting for another few decades. I hadn’t thought I was capable of that much wooing and excited cheering, especially as a nearing 30 year old woman alone at a gig… But, if anyone is going to make me deafen that poor tall guy in front of me, it’s Paul Smith. My unwavering love and excitement for Maximo Park certainly got the better of me, and I spent the night heartily singing along to every word, in a way which would have no doubt embarrassed nineteen year old me…
You can buy a copy of the special ’10th Anniversary Live’ album – a live recording of this fantastic night – here.