– Ritz, Manchester –

In support of their seventh studio album ‘Nature Always Wins’, released earlier this year, Maximo Park are tonight playing at Manchester’s Ritz. I seem to have lost track of the band’s album releases somewhere along the way, pretty sure I haven’t heard all of them despite being a fan when they first broke through a decade and a half ago.

Before we get to the 5-piece from Newcastle, we have first up a 3-piece from Chester. Peaness walk out with the background music still playing before tuning up and waiting for it to be switched off. Once it finally is, they get going with ‘Fortune Favours the Bold’ from their 2015 EP ‘No Fun’ and follow with ‘Oh George’ from 2017 EP ‘Are You Sure?’.



There are beaming smiles across the faces of all three members of the band, though there are some slightly out of tune vocals in these opening songs. Bassist and vocalist Jess Branney comments after the song they “can’t believe we’re playing the Ritz” adding that she’s feeling a bit nervous.

The band play six more songs and following the early shakiness they seem to settle in and the initial tuning trouble fades away. By the time they finish with their latest single ‘Kaizen’ the nerves are long gone and they all look very assured. Throughout the set, at no point do the grins leave their faces.

Between bands I can’t help but notice there are a lot of people drinking bottles of Hooch, along with the usual pint and double-pint plastic cups the Ritz offers. Not sure when Hooch became something people drink, I don’t remember ever seeing it at a gig before. Nonetheless the room is still filling up, Maximo Park’s guitars and bass are being tuned upside down by one of the crew and we wait for them to arrive.

The band walk out without frontman Paul Smith and start to play ‘All Of Me’ from their new album. Once the music starts, out comes Smith arms aloft, he grabs the microphone and off we go. Dancing from side to side across the stage with his wireless microphone as they play ‘Postcard Of A Painting’ next, it’s very apparent how likeable a performer Smith is, commanding the attention of everyone.

Maximo Park

Maximo Park

As the set continues there are clear signs of recognition to the majority of the songs, but Maximo Park songs always seem to have a lot of words and it makes it hard for crowds to sing along en masse. As if to prove the point, Smith grabs a book from the back of the stage to refer to the lyrics during the performance of ‘Meeting Up’ from the latest release. There’s a self-confessed intensity to the songs, Smith commenting before ‘Child Of The Flatlands’ that “after two intense songs, this one has a quiet intensity”, then the following song ‘Hips And Lips’ will “bring back the intensity”. We are nine songs into the set now and the front of the room is getting noticeably rowdier as the night progresses.

A couple of songs later there is an excitement explosion for the start of ‘Our Velocity’, an obvious fan favourite and possibly the closest song to having a full sing along. More surprises are still to come, punctuating the night amongst the intense songs. Jess Branney from Peaness returns to the stage to sing the Pauline Murray parts of ‘Ardour’ from ‘Nature Always Wins’. “A rare duet for a Maximo Park concert” we are informed. The earlier smile has still not left Branney’s face as she sings the song. Smith then pulls out a Stylophone, another rare occurrence surely? I couldn’t hear what was being played on it, but it was entertaining to see it used regardless.

Maximo Park & Jess from Peaness

Maximo Park & Jess from Peaness

A song that had been requested-by-screaming a number of times through the night, ‘Books From Boxes’, arrives the song after the duet. It’s not a song I’d have predicted to have beer thrown over me, but it happened. I’m not sure it was the excitement of the song that caused it however, just a very drunk man with a pint in each hand struggling to stay on his feet. Another new song ‘Versions Of You’ came next before another screamed-for request. We get an unplanned guitar and vocal only minute or so of ‘Kiss You Better’ before the scheduled ‘Limassol’ and the band leave the stage.

A few minutes later musicians return to the stage, once again without Smith who arrives as the music starts again, this time the song is ‘Partly Of My Making’. “It’s Sunday but we can still party” is the rallying call before ‘Girls Who Play Guitar’ and finally we end the night with ‘Apply Some Pressure’. The rowdiness and alcohol seem to have reached breaking point by now, with a small group of people being so overly aggressive it causes a partition in the crowd as others are trying to stay away from them. The one sour note of an otherwise enjoyable evening of live music.

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Adam Smith

Silent Radio Editor-in-chief. Watching excellently crafted live music is one of the great pleasures I get to enjoy. Having too often seen excellent bands fail to garner the attention I believe they deserve, I'm here to spread the good word of the under-appreciated musical performer. I encourage everyone who is reading this to do the same. Get in touch if you'd like to do that here.