The Maccabees review – farewell gig creates powerful fan communion

Alexandra Palace, London
Re-energised and euphoric, the band sweep away any knock-kneed flimsiness for a full-bodied final bow

There’s much to be said for perseverance. Seven years ago and two albums in, the Maccabees, if not quite the “landfill indie” of Britain’s post-Libertines era, were orbiting around it. They had the squiggly, needling guitars, the clattering drums, and from Orlando Weeks, the then customary quavering, hyper-emotive vocals. What did set them apart was their aversion to solipsism; their songs contained actual ideas, rather than navel scrapings. Their third album, Given to the Wild, was a fine thing – a chiming dreampop opus. The one after, Marks to Prove It, topped the UK chart. There won’t be any more though – this is the band’s farewell tour, capped with three nights at Alexandra Palace, London.

In this final incarnation, the Maccabees’ former knock-kneed quality is long gone, swept away by the rush of sound that defines their recent songs (requiring eight musicians to produce live), and re-energises the earlier ones that make up more than half the set. Feel to Follow and Kamakura typify the fluidity and atmosphere they’ve attained this decade, while the urgent and jumpy slong Love You Better (2008) now fairly rockets off the stage, lending its looping chorus new scale and grandeur. Spit It Out is a tune to remember them by: a slow-burner that builds to a ringing, impassioned, full-throttled anthem. It fills the room with poignancy and exultation.

“We want to make this the most euphoric goodbye ever,” says guitarist Felix White – and to be anything other than a fan caught up in the moment does bring the sense of having gatecrashed a celebration. By the time his band return for a turbo-charged encore, winding up with the huge fan favourite Pelican, there is a powerful sense of communion. Finality has a way of concentrating the mind and loosening the stays.

The show, with its “goodbye to all that” resonance, becomes a tribal gathering. And this chiefly white, middle-class, thirtysomething crowd, with no obvious subcultural affiliations, is a tribe as entitled to its rites as any other. This is their music. Or rather, was. The Maccabees have taken their idiom as far as they can. Noughties UK indie was a flimsy thing, but they’ve rendered it more vivid and sturdy than seemed possible at the time – and they’ve ended at a peak. There’s much to be said for perseverance, and also for knowing when to stop.

• At Alexandra Palace, London, 1 July.


David Bennun

The GuardianTramp

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