Seven years ago I was given a mixtape that had ‘Going Missing’ on and that was the first time I heard Maxïmo Park. Now, years later, I found myself at Portsmouth Pyramids waiting to see the band for the first time wondering exactly whether they could live up to my 14 year-old self’s expectations.
The night was opened by Bear Cavalry, a Gosport-based math-rock band who showed an impressive grasp on how to make their set both danceable and interesting; plenty of guitars, synths and even a trumpet helped make them become more than just another ‘guitar band’. It also made sure I left with both their EP’s. Following this, French band La Femme gave an all synths blaring 40 minutes. It was an interesting experience—having that lo-fi bedroom quality whilst channelling the electro-pop elements that potentially could make them massive within some scenes. However something failed to ‘click’ which meant it felt more like watching an Art-Nouveau film than being at a gig.
Maxïmo Park opened, unusually, with a slower track ‘When I Was Wild’—the first track off their fourth album, The National Health—before breaking out in to the albums’ title track. Within a minute of the track, frontman Paul Smith had jumped, bounded and scissor kicked his way in to the audiences’ good graces. When the opening riffs of ‘Girls Who Play Guitars’ were heard by the audience, the entire gig kicked in to the next gear which resulted in the crowd just as enthusiastically jumping around as the band themselves.
There were, however, more sedate moments in the set—all of which came from when Maxïmo Park played their newer material. Despite the newer songs still having the same energy and translating just as well live—the fantastic ‘Hips and Lips’ with its’ slithering beat and powerful chorus failed to provoke half as much of a reaction as it should. But the band didn’t let this deter them and gave these tracks just as much energy and enthusiasm as the rest—and one day you can tell the crowd will give these tracks the same reception they give to the older material.
Slower number ‘Questing, Not Coasting’ showcased Paul Smiths’ vocals at their very best and it was more powerful and significantly more impressive live than on record—making this a surprise highlight for me. Another highlight was, of course, ‘Going Missing’ given my attachment to the song and I was happy to find that they did not disappoint in the slightest. The staggering 23 song setlist finished up with the fantastic ‘Our Velocity’ which was the best closer they could’ve chosen as not only was it perfectly executed, it had the crowd giving every last bit of energy they had.
Overall Maxïmo Park proved exactly why they haven’t fizzled in to the indie-generation obscurity like some of their peers. And they successfully impressed both my younger and current self in one gig; which is a feat indeed.