The Maccabees at Glasgow University QM Union, 23rd January 2012

The Maccabees hit Glasgow in the next stop on their tour in support of new album, Given To The Wild.

A large proportion of those in the queue for the show itself seem barely pubescent. The age profile normalises to around the mid-twenties as the gig goes on, but there’s no doubt that the Maccabees have attracted new fans with the success of Given to the Wild.

The very enjoyable, but appallingly named, Trailer Trash Tracys are the support act. Their eighties influenced sound is well-received by the crowd steadily filling the QM. Think the Jesus and Mary Chain with a touch of Twin Peaks. Lead singer Susanne Aztoria looks like Scary Monsters-era David Bowie’s sister.

The crowd’s excitement at the arrival of the Maccabees on stage is undercut slightly by their decision to kick off with Given To The Wild’s opening songs, Child and Feel To Follow. These songs are apparently intended to ease listeners into sitting down and listening through the whole of the album. They seem an odd, low key choice for the start of a live set.

It takes until the fourth song, William Powers, before the gig fully explodes into life. The band’s thrilling high energy rendition causes a wave of joyful moshing at the front. Even jaded pop reviewers are left with broad grins on their faces.

From then on the only dips in the energy of the crowd are caused by songs from Given To The Wild. The more constructed, introspective approach of most of this material doesn’t sit easily amongst the frenetic songs from the first two Maccabees albums.

Notable exceptions include new single, Pelican, which is met with hands in the air and much pogoing from the crowd, and Unknow. The latter’s chainsaw riff works well in a live setting and keeps the crowd moving in spite of it being less familiar than the older songs.

Lead singer, Orlando Weeks, has spoken of the fact that the band are still working out how to play the new material live. Personally, I’d like to see them ditch any attempt to reproduce the sound of the album and punk the songs up as much as they can. That seems to me to be the best way to avoid the occasional lulls they’re experiencing at the moment.

Eighty per cent of the show is great fun. In addition to William Powers and Pelican, highlights include X-Ray, Can You Give It and About Your Dress. Love You Better absolutely storms the place. The older material reveals a band who are at the very top of their game as a live act.

The three song encore closes with Grew Up At Midnight from the new album. This is the most blandly anthemic song the band have recorded to date. It creates the jarring, but thankfully temporary, impression that you’ve slid through time and space to a Coldplay gig.

As the crowd shuffles out into the night, the sense of well-being from having been in the presence of the Maccabees’ energetic romanticism reasserts itself. Skinny jean-clad teens bound homewards. Jaded pop reviewers take a brief smiling respite from their bitter, twisted lives.


About problemofleisure

Freelance journalist and retired councillor.
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2 Responses to The Maccabees at Glasgow University QM Union, 23rd January 2012

  1. funkyusername says:

    I wasn’t very fond of supporting act. I’m not sure if the sound production in QMU was really bad during their performance or if their sound was particularly ‘difficult’ (in a bad way, which quite obviously might be just not much of my taste). Maccabess always have a very strong support, but this time they failed.
    I can say again that in my very personal opinion audience was very strange that night. Barely three months earlier in The Arches, people were equally enthusiastic about ‘old’ material as they were about new songs, which at that point weren’t officially published anywhere (Pelican was realised couple of weeks after Arches gig) and were there more for the band to test out how to play them live and how people react to their new efforts. From my perspective (second row), a lot of older people in the crowd had a couple too many and were acting a bit dicky towards the youngsters, which is never cool (being in mid-twenties I try to be as respectful as possible for the kids remembering I was a kid myself just few years ago). I wouldn’t agree that choice of Child and Feel to Follow was odd. It’s a tour in support of a new album, new album should get the most of attention, which sadly (and surprisingly) was not the case. It was exclusively their gig not a festival, so I see no reason to go on with ‘biggest hits’ to please randoms within the crowd. If the suggestion is made that a lot of people showed up because they got into Maccabess thanks to Given to The WIld, I’d assume people were expecting new stuff more than first two albums, unless the initial statement isn’t true in the end.
    Considering it was just a third gig of the worldwide GTTW tour, I think they coped quite well. It wasn’t their best gig I’ve been to but they played flawlessly. I’d change the setlist a bit myself, but in favour of new songs actually. It’s not much of an issue when commenting on particular event, but for the record I can say that they’ve learned their lessons throughout past weeks and 5th March Edinburgh gig had both perfect setlist (even although it included more new songs) and great atmosphere. Vibes coming from the crowd affect artists as well and it was quite easily visible that despite being far more tired in Edinburgh than they were in Glasgow, they were enjoying this show much more. Positive energy was bouncing of the walls unlike in QMU.

  2. Thanks for commenting!

    This was the first time I’d been to see The Maccabees so obviously I’m not able to compare this to their other performances. Personally, I’m not that keen on the new album. I think that it lacks energy compared with their previous two (both of which I love) and that’s what I put the new songs not coming over so well down to. I thought they did a good job of reproducing what was on the album, but that the songs as recorded were too low key in a live context.

    I take your point that the new album should be the main focus of the current tour and I’d be quite curious to see how they’ve changed things about since the Glasgow gig (which I enjoyed overall).

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