Maximo Park @ O2 Academy, Bristol, 16/03/2014

Maximo ParkMaximo Park are somewhat of an oddity in today's musical landscape - not quite edgy enough for the alternative crowd, not quite rock'n'roll enough for the, well, rock'n'roll crowd. It’s been that way for the Newcastle five-piece for a while. Despite a general lack of airplay and support from the mainstream media, they've built up a loyal and dedicated fanbase, with two gold-selling records and consistently strong albums under their belt. Their latest effort, Too Much Information, is quite possibly their best yet. It goes some way to bridge the gap between indie and alternative, and it's the unmistaken sound of a band who have mastered their craft. Fortunately, that feeling has transferred itself to the live stage.

It's this confidence and consistency that ensures they're as much of a live draw as they were when they first surfaced in 2004; that midway point through the decade where there was one indie band to every thirty people across the country. It could have been easy to slip back into the indie landfill like so many others did, but Maximo Park had other ideas. Charismatic frontman Paul Smith prowls the stage throughout tonight’s performance, his demeanour and control of the venue mimicking the generally assured nature of their sound. Tearing straight into “Give, Get, Take”, the opening and standout track from the new record, it's a typically rip-roaring start, even if a lot of the Sunday evening crowd are looking a little bleary-eyed after the weekend's endeavours.

Although the set list is understandably heavily plundered from earlier material, overall the performance offers an expert selection of songs spanning the band's 10-year career. Fan favourite “Our Velocity” follows early on in the lengthy set, alongside the likes of “Brain Cells” and “Graffiti”. They're sadly ruined slightly by the poor acoustics of the O2. Far from my favourite venue, it’s always seems to be plagued by problems such as this. Not that there's any reason to want to, but you could easily hold a conversation over the music. It certainly puts a dampener on what quickly becomes a hugely enjoyable set.

Despite the sound issues, the terrific “Leave This Island” soars with its electronic flourishes and Smith's typically punchy lyrics, making it one of the standout tracks of the band's entire career. Although a Sunday evening gig was never going to be the rowdiest of their career, Smith does an admirable job of keeping the crowd in tow, peppering the hits across the set and pulling out all the moves of a proper rock'n'roll frontman - perhaps, and I'm desperately trying to avoid the cliche here, something you don't see so much of nowadays.

By the time “Apply Some Pressure” arrives, Smith has the crowd in the palm of his hand, even briefly engaging in dialogue with a fan desperate to give local gig legend 'Big Jeff' some overdue credit for his boundless energy! Ever keen to control the tempo, the band finish off with a couple of slow burners, bringing everyone back down to earth and remembering, once again, that it's just a Sunday evening. Maximo Park: maturing gracefully.


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