Review: Maximo Park, O2 Academy, Newcastle

Maximo Park frontman Paul Smith performing at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.
Maximo Park frontman Paul Smith performing at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

Maximo Park have played many memorable hometown gigs over the years, but few have been better than this.

The indie-rock band have played everywhere from intimate pubs to the cavernous Arena, and many outdoor venues in between.

Maximo Park frontman Paul Smith performing at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

Maximo Park frontman Paul Smith performing at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

I've never seen them play a bad gig, but this was possibly the best, most energetic performance of the lot.

That's thanks largely to one vital ingredient - a new album that's right up there with the best they've ever made.

Risk To Exist is, by some distance, their angriest record to date, railing against the state of the world today, and Britain in particular.

From start to finish, frontman Paul Smith elequently vents his spleen against racism, inequality, drugs, austerity - you name it, he's hacked off with it.

Maximo Park frontman Paul Smith performing at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

Maximo Park frontman Paul Smith performing at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

That's what makes it such a vital album, and it provided the cornerstone of this wonderful sold-out show.

The new songs are just as full of Maximo's trademark hooks and catchy choruses, but at the same time they're poppier and funkier, yet harder-edged than ever.

With Smith effervescent as always, and his vocals more impassioned than I've ever heard them, they put on a stunning show for their hometown crowd.

Duncan Lloyd laid shards of jagged guitar over Lukas Wooller's shimmering keys, all against a pounding backbeat from drummer Tom English and bassist Paul Rafferty. This was a band at the top of their game,

Maximo Park's Lukas Wooler performing at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

Maximo Park's Lukas Wooler performing at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

They began with the new record's opening track, What Did We Do To You To Deserve This?, and although unfamiliar songs don't always go down well, it had the crowd onside from the off.

Title track and lead single Risk To Exist followed, and again went down a storm, and they showed they knew how to please a crowd by going back in time next and wheeling out an old favourite, Books From Boxes.

New songs were interspersed with old throughout the set, and most of the big guns were present and correct: the evergreen The Coast Is Always Changing, a frenetic Our Velocity, and a stunning Going Missing.

There was the odd curve ball thrown in for good measure: Questing, Not Coasting, from third album Quicken The Heart, and The Undercurrents, from follow-up The National Health, received an airing, while Graffiti was but one of a handful of old favourites conspicuous by their absence.

Maximo Park guitarist Duncan Lloyd performing at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

Maximo Park guitarist Duncan Lloyd performing at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

This tour was about playing the new songs live, however, and some of its key tracks, such as The Hero and the classic-in-waiting Work And Then Wait sounded even better than on record.

Smith remains the kind of frontman you daren't take your eyes off for a second, leaping, gesticulating, and teasing the crowd like the showman he is; he doesn't just sing these songs, he becomes them.

They left possibly the best to last, with their three-song encore following the crowd-pleasing Apply Some Pressure with the none-more-funkier Get High (No I Don't).

On this sort of form, you want them to get angry more often. Welcome home Maximo. Don't be gone too long.

Maximo Park's rhythm section in action at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

Maximo Park's rhythm section in action at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

Maximo Park frontman Paul Smith performing at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

Maximo Park frontman Paul Smith performing at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.