THE MACCABEES, Alexandra Palace – Evening Standard, 30 June 2017

 

Just after Adele suggested to her Wembley Stadium audience that she may never tour again, her old friends The Maccabees have joined her in quitting while they’re ahead.

In these days of bands building bridges and burying hatchets for lucrative reunions, it takes courage to split your group not long after your first number one album. The south London quintet were going in the right direction, making better music on every release, earning a Mercury nomination and an Ivor Novello for their third effort and topping the charts with their fourth. But making new music always seemed to be a torturous process for this painfully democratic group with no clear leader, so after 14 years they’re going through one of music’s more amicable divorces.

No Gallagher-style animosity for guitarist brothers Felix and Hugo White: “There have not been fallings out and we are grateful to say that we are not leaving the group behind as a divided force,” said a band statement last August. Here, at the first of three farewell shows in their hometown, a unified line of three guitars and bass built a towering wall of sound on songs such as Young Lions and Kamakura.

It was the extra emotion generated by the knowledge that they won’t be back, that there’ll be no routine round of early evening festival appearances, that lifted the show from good to great. Felix White urged the crowd to boo them. Reserved singer Orlando Weeks demanded that they climb on each other’s shoulders. There was confetti. Never an arena band before, here, too late, they looked like they could be, and sounded like it on the rousing Can You Give It? and slow-building Grew Up at Midnight.

They grew up across 14 years together, from singing about a leisure centre on Latchmere to dealing wth mortality on this evening’s closing song, Pelican. Yet they held back at that big last step – never became as daring as Radiohead, as populist as Coldplay or as excessive as Muse. It is brave, and disappointing, of them to euthanise their band rather than attempt to join the giants.

 

Until July 1, Alexandra Palace, N22 (0870 444 5556, alexandrapalace.com)

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