The Maccabees - Wolverhampton Civic Hall
It's a mark of how dedicated a fanbase they've built over the past five years that The Maccabees inspire - at least in the first fifteen rows or so - a Friday night atmosphere on a Sunday night. The fans aren't afraid of the impending Monday morning hangover, with girls climbing aboard the nearest boy's shoulders, much in the way of energetic dancing on display, and even pint missiles arcing their way above a crowd who generally know all the words. For a band who attract such a dedicated following, as well as critical respect and none-too-shabby chart placings (January's third album Given to the Wild peaked at #4, their highest yet), on this evidence it might just be that The Maccabees are the most beloved and most successful 'indie' band of recent times that, weirdly, not many people know about.
While Florence and her Machine switch to the arenas, where Coldplay and the big boys are already more than comfortable, and more recent upstarts like The Vaccines clamour to be kings of the dancehalls with their riotous anthems, The Maccabees have always felt like a band content to quietly plug away at their craft in whatever size venue - even when the guitars have been turned up. They make a fair bit of noise tonight, especially when revisiting the more carefree indie dancefloor tousles of their first album, but it is a performance that appears to be committed to making themselves and, most of all, those first fifteen rows of devotees happy rather than appealing massively beyond that. Commendable enough, no?
So, despite the new album having been widely acknowledged as a more 'epic' tack (with dangerous comparisons to Arcade Fire being banded about quite a bit), the show still feels like an intimate affair even though the sound is much more expansive and grandiose anthemics are unapologetically pronounced. The set inevitably caters to the new album, the intro and first two songs following the tracklisting exactly, and the sound is as rewarding as sophomore effort Wall of Arms hinted it might be. Brothers Hugo and Felix White are joined by honorary sixth member Will, who helps transport the record's layers to a live setting by helming keyboards and twiddling knobs, while the guitars and drums are propulsive and create a wall of sound which Orlando Weeks's distinct fragile-then-majestic vocal quite comfortably scales.
Personally, it's still the earlier rabble-rousers that inspire my foot-tappings here (a mid-section of 'First Love', 'X-Ray' and 'Can You Give It' grabs at the heart of the young man I was three or four years ago) but there's no denying that the slow burn atmospherics of the new stuff still packs a punch with the boys working hard to create a noise loud enough to show they've not gone anywhere near soft. 'Pelican' is hip-baitingly catchy as anything they've done, while the likes of 'Forever I've Known' and set closer 'Grew Up at Midnight' complement earlier plays of 'Love You Better' and an intense 'No Kind Words'. They play for just over an hour but it's time well spent and, although such a display could easily travel well to cavernous spaces, one gets the sense they leave the stage eager to perfect this live show then use what they've learnt to craft a fourth record that continues their steady ascension. Yes, the arenas can certainly wait.