Gig Review by Farhana Alam with Photography by Helen Williams

Maxïmo Park

“What’s my view? Well, how am I supposed to know? 
Write a review? Well, how objective can I be?”

Maxïmo Park

Maxïmo Park celebrate their 10-year existence with a sold-out performance within the faux Grecian décor of Birmingham’s O2 Institute. Support comes from Stealing Sheep, who appear on stage through smoke and UFO-like lighting, clad in black & neon capes and matching sunglasses, to sounds reminiscent of the X-Files theme tune.

Stealing Sheep

Stealing SheepStealing Sheep

Their music sounds like an electronic blend of Björk and Au Revoir Simone, held together with tribal-sounding percussion. The sunglasses are ceremoniously removed and the 3 band members appear to be having more fun as their set progresses. Their Liverpudlian speaking voices are at odds with the ethereal music they play; eerie, electronic whirring sounds and layered, reverberating vocals fill the room, like an offering, as the band becomes increasingly obscured by smoke. The last song of the set, Shut Eye, finally gets the audience dancing. Sunglasses are replaced, the band turns around, and neon faces stare out from their capes, as they retreat back into the smoke.

Maxïmo Park

As the crowd waits, blinding white lights spelling out MAXIMO fill the backdrop of the stage, pulsing at intervals, searing into the retinas of fans ranging from early-twenties to mid-sixties in age. There is a deafening welcome as the band walks on stage and starts the set with Girls Who Play Guitars; lights flashing in time with the riff.

Maxïmo Park

Paul Smith, with his trademark hat-wearing, sharp-cut silhouette, is infinitely watchable as he strikes poses and does jump kicks. The jacket comes off and the megaphone comes out for The Kids Are Sick Again. The keyboardist, Lukas Wooller, is sometimes statuesque with only his hands moving, but is beacon-like for other songs, guiding the crowd into frenzied dancing. The first half of the set ends with Our Velocity – Paul Smith with arms outstretched standing before an X of light – followed by Books From Boxes.

Maxïmo ParkMaxïmo Park

After a 5-minute interval, with the lights leading the chant of “Max-i-mo”, drumming starts up and lights illuminate the intro to Signal And Sign. Paul Smith makes a self-deprecating comment on the fact that the show has involved an interval and a costume change (red shirt; black tie) and sounds genuinely humbled as he notices people in a second tier balcony of the venue. As the band chronologically plays all the songs from the debut album, A Certain Trigger, there is a party atmosphere, strengthened by an outstanding light show to accompany the set; every single person in the room is having fun, especially a father & son duo seated in the balcony, whom everybody on the floor seems to have noticed as they air-drum enthusiastically.

Maxïmo Park

The whole room sings along to Going Missing and arms reach out to the green laser beams that fill the room for Limassol. A middle-aged couple in front of me goes wild for The Night I Lost My Head; there are a lot of people in the crowd who have clearly grown up with Maxïmo Park. As Acrobat and Kiss You Better end the show, and the band thanks the audience and walks off stage, the chant starts up again: Max-i-mo Max-i-mo…

Maxïmo Park

See the complete photoset here.

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