Maccabees – review

Leadmill, Sheffield

Walking on stage to the triumphant sounds of David Bowie's Heroes is asking for a fall, but you can't blame the Maccabees for celebrating their big moment. Guitar bands are supposedly in such commercial trouble they should be subject to preservation orders, yet the Brighton band's third album, Given to the Wild, has soared into the top five. Indeed, they are given such a heroes' reception that the delicate opening number Child is drowned out by the screaming.

It's hard to avoid the sense of a band who have hit top form at the right time. After years on the block developing furious, jerky pop on 2007's Colour It In and expansive Arcade Fire indie on 2009's Wall of Arms, they have suddenly found a much bigger voice. It's a darker, often haunting, beautifully cinematic sound that nods to Foals' emotional funk and Talk Talk's dreamy soundscapes but is identifiably their own.

Much of this is down to Orlando Weeks, who has gradually become a captivating frontman. Wearing one of Morrissey's old polkadot big girl's blouses and the kind of severe crop sported by first world war conscripts – the juxtaposition with the flailing-haired guitarists at his side works as wonderfully as the contrast between his delicate choirboy voice and the band's torrents of epic, even (gulp) progressive rock.

It says much about their confidence in the new material that only two songs appear from the debut along with a chunk from Wall of Arms and no less than three quarters of Given to the Wild. With funky drummer Sam Doyle, a relatively new recruit, driving the rhythm and the set's building atmosphere, songs make grim themes – childhood struggles, mortality on the sublime Pelican – sound anthemic and euphoric. Some of the frenetic guitar passages unleash waterfalls of notes and are thrilling. The audience sing along with bleakly positive mantras such as "Nothing stays forever, couldn't you still try", pass bodies over the crowd and generally suggest the Maccabees will be inhabiting vastly bigger venues before long.


Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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