Gig Review: Maximo Park, Billboard, 11th November

Maximo Park

Maximo Park are quickly becoming Aussie favourites. Since their stellar debut ‘A Certain Trigger’, they have toured here several times, moving progressively to bigger and bigger venues. It comes as a slight surprise, then, that on the back of their latest LP ‘Quicken The Heart’, and following playing at some of the world’s biggest music festivals, they are still playing at venues such as Billboard.

But Maximo Park are a band that really are best suited to smaller venues as opposed to stadiums. And this is one of the great aspects of the Australian music scene: that we get to see big international acts like this in such intimate settings. Let Britney come and distract the masses away to her lip-syncing stadium circus, if that means that we get Maximo Park at Billboard then it’s fine with me.

Maximo Park is a strange entity live. Lead singer Paul Smith is exuberant and irrepressible as he dances to every song and uses the mic stand only to conduct the crowd. Likewise keyboardist Lukas Wooller is an excitable one as he prances up and down around his keyboard, restricted from moving around the stage by his instrument, something that Paul doesn’t have the worry about. The rest of the band, however, are pretty chilled out, almost to the point that it appears like they’re not really having a good time.

But this is just the nature of the beast when it comes to Maximo Park. It is almost as if Paul and Lukas take it upon themselves to compensate for the lack of energy coming from the rest of the band. And compensate they do. This is not to say that the other members of the band don’t play their part, but they just don’t have the same natural energy on stage. For whatever reason though, it just works.

And so it was that Paul Smith entered the Billboard stage on a swelteringly hot night, dressed in a full white suit and a fedora. And exuberant would be an understated way to describe him that night, he seemed to feed of the energy of the crowd as he moved around the stage with no regard for his own safety.

It would come off as forced if not for Paul’s natural charisma and the sense that this is who he is, for better or worse. Looking at a video of the performance now, Paul’s performance would probably seem really awkward and unnatural. But when you are there, in that moment, his craziness seems like the only reasonable thing he could do in response to a crowd that clearly loves his band so much. The band also appeared as very humbled by the response and genuinely appreciative, which was great to see.

Maximo Park played a near-perfect setlist, which was a relief considering they had been leaving out some of their big songs as they played around Europe recently. ‘Graffiti’ got the night truly started, as Maximo Park played a set that was split equally between songs off their debut, their second album ‘Our Earthly Pleasures’, and ‘Quicken The Heart’.

I admit that I am not a huge fan of their latest album, so it was nice to hear them play so many older songs. Their first two albums are truly brilliant, and hearing my personal favourite ‘By The Monument’ was worth the ticket price alone. We also got ‘Girls Who Play Guitars’, the very strange ‘Acrobat’, ‘Parisian Skies’, the galloping ‘Apply Some Pressure’, and even a few B-Sides.

Of course there were the inevitable collection of new songs. The crowd seemed to respond quite strongly to them, and indeed ‘Quicken The Heart’ has been met with mostly positive reviews. Its songs still just don’t quite do it for me, and I found myself waiting for when they would be over so I could hear one of my favourites from the older albums.

Somehow Paul and Lukas kept their insane energy going throughout the entire night, even as sweat dripped from their faces. As Paul danced around the stage, framed in the light as only a silhouette with a fedora, mic in hand, and sweat dripping from his tangled hair, it was almost as if he was embodying another certain musician.

Paul Smith made this show work. He makes Maximo Park work. And, as the band prepared to re-enter for their encore to finish the show with the perfect closer ‘Our Velocity’, the crowd chanted with one voice: ‘Maximo’. Over and over again. Just like Maximo Park, it may look awkward from the outside, but from the inside it makes perfect sense.

You just had to be there.

2 Responses to “Gig Review: Maximo Park, Billboard, 11th November”

  1. This is an excellent review,sensitive and sensible.
    I enjoyed reading it very much.
    Maximo Park are a fantastic live act,classy and like no other band now.I was lucky enough to see them at the Royal Albert Hall last month and the show was

  2. I saw them on Sunday night in Adelaide and they were absolutely amazing! Although the crowd wouldn’t have been over 500, it was almost surreal in that you knew that everyone there truly wanted to be there for Maximo that night, and not just to come along for the ride. Paul was insane as ever, in a good way, and I even got him to sign my shirt :)
    All in all a fantastic night – I can only hope I get to see them again one day!

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