The Maccabees

The Maccabees


When I was growing up and I had to listen to those Bible readings that turned me into an atheist, I only knew these Maccabees. Then, when I moved to Manchester to make Griffin and Farage happy, I started hearing about these other Maccabees, also because the other ones are not gigging any more. Before you start complaining, here’s my disclaimer: I am a Maccabee newbie, so please appreciate the freshness of my first listen ever.

The Ritz is sold out tonight, and you can see, feel and smell it. As soon as I go through those doors, I find myself into a thick wall of steam and excitement. As soon as the band appears soon after 9pm, the venue explodes into a delirious cheer. I will discover tonight that the Maccabees are absolutely adored by their fans, and it feels like we are at Glastonbury or Wembley, such loud are the choirs. The band is in excellent shape and overflows with stamina, and it is particularly Sam Doyle that impresses me with an hour and a half of uninterrupted energetic and varied drumming, cleverly modulated for each song.

The wonderful ‘Wall of Arms’ which opens the show, makes me wonder whether Devendra Banhart has been listening to the Maccabees at some point. The Ritz quakes with applauses and I notice that these Southerners, via the smooth voice of Orlando Weeks, are polite guys who thank us, ask if everybody is alright and wish us a good night. Not compulsory, but much appreciated.

Compared to the studio versions, the songs played tonight, chosen from all the albums including the forthcoming still unnamed fourth one, acquire an entirely new flavour, more intense and engaging. For most songs, such as ‘Love You Better’, ‘Precious Time’, ‘Can You Give It’, ‘X-Ray’, ‘Grew up At Midnight’, ‘No Kind Words’ and, obviously, ‘Pelican’, it takes fans roughly two notes to identify them and start screaming and singing along as in a stadium. The new songs have been welcomed with attention by the audience, who responded with hyperwarm applauses.

The contrast between Weeks’ voice and Doyle’s battle drums works really well. It is with ‘Love you Better’ that we can eventually hear some keyboards and we’ll have to wait for ‘WW1 Portraits’ and ‘Spit It Out’ to hear some guitar and bass, something that strikes me as quite unusual. The musicians leave the stage for a few minutes after an hour and, after a 30-minute encore, they end the show with a majestic version of ‘Pelican’.

They haven’t changed the history of rock yet, but the Maccabees certainly have nothing to envy of the Foo Fighters. I leave with sticky shoes and the new awareness that this band is undoubtedly one of the most popular in this country. Where have I been?!

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Francesca Nottola

I write, translate, edit texts and take pictures. I solve problems for pensioners and create problems to everyone else. Sometimes a history researcher and language tutor, I would happily live in a national archive or in the head of professional musicians. Unfortunately, I say what I think