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Of all the bands who came through the second wave of post-millennium indie rock's discerning upsurge, The Maccabees seem to be one of the few who've not only managed to retain a certain level of credibility about them, but also managed to up their game and build on the foundations laid by debut album Colour It In two years ago. The first taster of new material since that time - and coincidentally the opener tonight - recent download single 'No Kind Words' hinted at a darker, more introspective side than perhaps demonstrated in the past. One thing's for sure, despite the obvious pressures of songwriting and recording to contend with, The Maccabees have had other traumas to deal with, most notably original drummer Rob Dylan Thomas' indefinite departure from the band into a rehabilitation clinic, which may at least offer some indication as to why the forthcoming Wall Of Arms long player isn't quite the jaunty collection of happy-go-lucky ditties fans of their first record were expecting.
Moving onto tonight's rescheduled show - postponed from last month due to television commitments - there's something of an air of optimism about the whole event, not least from the over-enthusiastic mix of fans young and old, which would suggest the Brighton five-piece have become anything but forgotten during their hiatus which lasted pretty much the whole of 2008. Personally, having witnessed their joyous performance at last weekend's Camden Crawl, where they already appeared to have raised the bar from the last time we witnessed them in the flesh, the next fifty-odd minutes came as little surprise.
Playing a set heavy on new material, not to mention choosing to omit long time favourites such as 'Happy Faces', 'About Your Dress' and 'Latchmere', many a lesser band would have been met by a stony silence in between the more recognisable chestnuts of yore. Not The Maccabees though. Instead, there is actually a growing buzz that seems to emanate with every new song that is aired this evening, still a good week before Wall Of Arms hits the stores. Maybe a lot of that is down to the new found confidence that seems to engulf all five members throughout, not least frontman Orlando Weeks who seems to have added the title of "multi-talented musician" to his already impressive bow, switching from guitar to accordion and back again to plain old singer - if there were such a thing - with consummate ease.
Of the new songs played tonight, it would be difficult to pinpoint any that sound weak or disingenuous when placed in the context of a live set, but the resounding accordion-led fanfare of 'Can You Give It' and almost-certain-to-be future single 'Kiss And Resolve' stand out not because of any similarities to past glories, but more as a statement of the band's erudite development. Sure, the likes of 'X Ray' and 'First Love' are received like heroes returning home from battle but even when the band have the audacity to play two new songs during the encore, current single 'Love You Better' and its b-side 'Accordion Song', there is no let-up either onstage or off it, which is surely a testament to The Maccabees ability to usurp both their audience and the rest of the competition in one fell swoop.
Overall, this is a triumphant return for a band who seem to have discovered both the assurance and nous to confound even their own wildest expectations in the time they've been away.
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