The Maccabees - O2 Guildhall, Southampton
Post Paris there was a taste of apprehension in attending a rock concert. Even down in Southampton the security was doubled with strict body searches and bag searches for everyone. But this didn't subdue any of the usual atmosphere of the Guildhall (now another branded O2 Academy).
The Maccabees entered the stage covered in a thick blue mist with the line-up now featuring keyboards, trumpets and even a percussionist - always a sign that a band has hit the big time. Going straight into 'Marks To Prove It' the guys looked confident and now on their fourth album, front man Orlando Weeks looks far more at ease in his role as lead singer than back in 2008. The band flash smiles and joke to each other throughout before performing a guitar motif with effortless ease. They no longer sport the hoodies and Converse from their spiky-indie days with Felix White looking all dapper in his suit top. But less about the fashion and more about the music. Their new material is slightly more subdued than their early material and It took the singles from their first two albums to really spark the crowd into a frenzy 'Love You Better' started the evening's first dancing circle, yes dancing. Nice to see that the kid's are learning that battering each other senseless isn't the only way to enjoy a gig. This was shortly followed by Felix dedicating 'Precious Time' to anyone locally who have seen them before, and demanding us to "f**king sing"! And that we most certainly did.
Out of the new material. 'Spit It Out' sounds even more splendid in the live arena, with the slow build climbing to the band singing "What are we doing now?" climax. Hugo White coped very well with his time in the sun during 'Silence' and received a loving pat on the back from Weeks as well as a few words of congratulations from brother Felix. The Maccabees really look like a band of brothers doing what they love, with the people they love. Which is rare to see ten years into a band's career. Felix makes another dedication to the kid who asked them to play 'X-Ray' which goes down a storm, though how much influence the kid had is ruined, when noticing that they have played it in Brighton the night before, they played an intense version 'No Kind Words' and end the first part of the set with 'Grew Up At Midnight' with its rousing ending sounding an awful lot like Coldplay's 'Clocks' .
They leave to adulation, though they stay off stage a little too long and there are a few awkward silences before the band made their predictable return. Playing two new tracks back to back is an interesting option away from the hit friendly encores' many are used to. But 'WW1 Portraits' is one of 'Marks To Proves It's' more impressive tracks, just maybe best shuffled into their earlier set; though the send off of fan favourite 'Toothpaste Kisses' and the modern classic 'Pelican' certainly make up for this. As the crowd-surfers wipe down their worn jeans and the little girl on the front row gives her mum a hug of jubilation the night draws to an end. I am knocked over by some youngsters running to tear down the band's posters from the wall as a trophy for what they exclaimed as "best gig ever"! Maybe not, but certainly the best this year. Bring on the festival headline slots.