Maximo Park @ Albert Hall Manchester 19.5.17

Bethan Shuff

The Albert Hall is a beautiful music venue; stained glass windows, high ceiling and a huge organ as the stage backdrop with stunning acoustics. No venue would have been a better choice for Maximo Park’s sold out Manchester show.

The only support act, on at 8:00, was Pins; a Mancunian five-piece, all female rock band that walked on stage with attitude and confidence. Their stage presence and appearance, all half-matching in black, mesh and leather, oozed sass and screamed fierce, but not as fierce as their fiery feministic tracks. Armed with their own quirky instruments, representing a little part of their personality, the girls laid down killer riffs on top of addictive drums, added to by dreamy synth tones and tambourine. With two microphones, singer Faith Holgate was able to switch between vocals drowned in reverb, and others in a spacey delay, joined by an ensemble of harmonies from the rest of the band. Pins are a voice of empowerment for women, with tracks like ‘Bad Thing’ singing ‘everyone says we’re no good; we don’t do what we should,’ and ‘Girls Like US’ having strong, girl-power messages. The world definitely needs more all-female rock bands like Pins, challenging the stereotype of the ‘girl-band’.

With six studio albums under their belt, it’s a wonder how Maximo Park whittle their catalogue down to just 20 songs for a set list. Well actually, the band had tailored set lists for each leg of the tour, mixing up their tracks so that each venue got its own unique show. Opening the set were two tracks from their brand new album Risk To Exist released last month, ‘What Did We Do To You To Deserve This’ and the title track ‘Risk To Exist’. Paul is a frontman and a half, dressed in a blue tailored suit with matching hat, a leopard print shirt, a mint green belt, red socks and black and white brogues, anyone else would have looked ridiculous – but not Paul Smith. With each movement made choreographed to perfection, he showed us what showmanship is really about. The last time I saw Maximo Park perform, Paul had recently had an operation on his eye and was donning some sunglasses saying he wasn’t trying to be Bono, but he shouldn’t have been gigging at all. It was brilliant to see him back at 100% and able to give it his all, throwing in the first of many scissor kicks during the first three tracks.

Sneaked into the set were some hot-topic political numbers from the latest album like Respond to the Feeling and Work and Wait, as well as The National Health, taken from their The National Health album. I can’t help but think that Paul was urging a message to the people regarding the upcoming election in playing these tracks. The tracks included lyrics like ‘What’s left for you if everybody is turning right?’ and ‘The right-wing views have been getting me down’.
Slowing it down momentarily, catching his breath from the robot dancing which he has mastered an made to look cool, Paul commented on the beauty of the Albert Hall before going on to say that they’re a romantic band, about to play a romantic song about falling in love with someone during a thunderstorm. A gorgeous performance of a track the band rarely play live ‘Questing, Not Coasting’ was played and the atmosphere in the room was just brimming. 

There’s never a dull moment at a Maximo Park gig, be it Paul’s dancing or Lukas trying to stand on his keyboard; you never can guess what’s coming next. Paul got a megaphone out during Going Missing to create some funky no-pedal-can-do-this effect as well as an Axl Rose-esque shimmy that appears to be ‘unintentional but inevitable’ as he sung What Equals Love. It was the last night of the show, and it was being filmed by a camera crew. Paul talked about how the fans are the reason the band are still playing music and was incredibly down-to-earth as he addressed the audience that had completely packed out the floor and circle of Albert Hall. 

Momentarily off-stage, the roars from the crowd grew louder and louder until Maximo Park returned to the stage for their last encore of the tour with By The Monument, a track ‘about having fun; it could be about taking your clothes off, but it’s mainly about being alive next year’: Apply Some Pressure, and finally another track from the new album called Get High.

Paul Smith was the last to walk off the stage as he continued to just look out into the audience grinning from ear to ear after the final exhilarating set of an incredible tour celebrating the release of their new and exciting music. Maximo Park are on a roll, and there’s absolutely no stopping them.