Review: The Maccabees, HMV Picture House

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IT’S a dilemma that faces musicians each time they set off on tour to support a brand new album – exactly just how much of this fresh material should get an airing?

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It can’t be easy trying to marry the desire to play your latest compositions with the crowd’s expectations of hearing their old favourites.

So with eight of the evening’s 16 tracks taken from recent top-five hit Given To The Wild, could it be that the Maccabees have got this delicate balance completely wrong? Thankfully, the answer is no, and a resounding one at that.

Since first turning heads with the youthful promise of 2007 debut Colour It In, the band’s sound has got progressively darker and denser, moving from catchy, melodious – but lightweight – indie pop to something far more complex and absorbing.

Groups like the Arctic Monkeys and Arcade Fire have similarly evolved in terms of sonic substance, and although the Brighton five-piece aren’t at the level of those two, they offer more than the occasional flash of their own brilliance.

Lead single Pelican is an undoubted highlight, while songs such as Glimmer and the epic Forever I’ve Known swell and soar. They don’t tend to go where you think they will, either – sudden pauses and unexpected changes of rhythm and timing constantly surprising. Recreating all this live is no mean feat either.

Even the older hits that get an outing, such as First Love, X-Ray and the superb Precious Time, have been re-worked, ensuring they rely less on frontman Orlando Weeks’ distinctive voice to carry them along.

“I apologise for not saying too much tonight,” mumbles Weeks bashfully over the first few bars of set closer Grew Up At Midnight.

“Sometimes I can’t think of anything intelligent or clever to say, so I think it’s probably best to say nothing at all.”

You can forgive this – his band’s performance has spoken volumes instead.