Maxïmo Park and Pip Blom, The Roundhouse, London, 7th October 2022
Updated: Oct 10
I am on a run. Sadly not in the exercise sense (which my waistline would value and appreciate), but instead of excellent gigs. Night Beats, Gwenno, Robyn Hitchcock, The House Of Love, Pete Astor, The Dears....the last few weeks have been very good for live music excursions, but Maxïmo Park might be gig of the year.
Heading in with my friend Sarah, we head front left, just behind the obsessives pressed up against the barrier, readying themselves for an evening of no loo breaks - I salute them. Mindful of recent campaigns to check out the support act, I notice as I plan the evening that tonight's support is fabulous Dutch indie act Pip Blom, who me and Mrs JO'B saw at The Great Escape back in 2019. Then they were playing a dingy club in the late afternoon. Now they are on stage at one of London's finest venues, playing the stage like they own it, no support act nerves here.
Sarah and I agree they kill it - to me they have a head bobbing, poppy vibe of Pixies on a very happy day, playing The GoGo's back catalogue. They play eight songs drawn from their two albums to date, Boat and Welcome Break. Both albums are all buoyant hooks, backing anxious lyrics which contrast with their fizzing energy on stage. And drummer Gini Cameron is Animal from The Muppets reborn, pounding the drums like her life depends on it.
Closing song Daddy Issues is the killer, all pop hooks, chanted choruses and swirling feedback guitar. And who can resist a shouty repetitive chorus you can't help singing along to - "You said you never wanna die, now you don't care anymore - what you wanna do? What you wanna do? What you wanna do? What you wanna do?".
After last year's brilliant new album (Maximo Park - Nature Always Wins), Maxïmo Park are back out on a singles tour, with a new album to follow in 2023. So tonight is all killer, no filler. The show roars out of the gates with All Of Me from last year, with front man Paul Smith stylish as ever - Sarah and I had bet he would be Trilby-ed up tonight, but he's gone for his Bowler, ever the milliner's friend. And his 80s styled No War t-shirt sets his stall clearly out.
As Paul cranks up the lascivious dancing, with Hips And Lips, Sarah and I find two loud chatty women have placed themselves in front of us to our left. When they were bellowing out the lyrics that was cool, but now one just bellows some nonsense into the other's poor left ear. Millennials, sort it out! Don't come to gigs if you are just going to chat!
Meanwhile, an inebriated tall man and his small but equally tiddly girlfriend place themselves in front to our right, He is insistent on snogging her and then turning his back to the stage and singing the lyrics to the crowd, like anyone gives a flying f*** about him. He leans on his poor amour, while spilling his newly acquired pint on some other poor woman, We lean in to stop him hurting someone and Sarah checks his partner is ok, as he is such a t**t. She is and eventually leads him away before he can do any damage. We worry about the poor choices people can make, but quickly refocus on the storming show on stage, less distracted by the alcohol fuelled soap opera that briefly played out before us.
Photo courtesy of Sarah
Paul leaps, climbs on monitors, swirls his mikestand, robot dances, does near splits and scissor kicks like a demon (and a much younger man!) - he is a legend. His voice is never less than spot on, and the band kill it all night. Technical gremlins threaten the drums a couple of times, but these are quickly dealt with and their charm never lets this take away from the momentum of the gig. And Duncan Lloyd really is a superb guitarist, taunt, not showy and restrained throughout the gig, yet has the crowd popping, pogoing and head banging at many points.
Whilst never preachy, a few comments are made about the terrible political and ecumenic times we find ourselves in. The National Health is introduced with that old cliche that just when you think it can't get worse, Liz Truss upends that view. Leave This Island is about a friend who just doesn't want to be reached, though there is a little Brexit dig here and again later in the show.
New single Great Art is about a rainy night in London, and happily my mail ordered copy is waiting for me when I get home - perfect timing. It's fabulous and they also have out right now a cracking cover of Japan's European Son, though sadly they miss this out - gutted!
But tonight is all focused on the hits, with London fans voting for Karaoke Plays to be played. For me, the run of Going Missing, Books From Boxes, Versions Of You and Apply Some Pressure is as good a run of songs on stage as I have ever seen. The crowd agree, with moshing, crowd surfing and shoulders hastily clambered on to get a better view.
They return with The Undercurrents from 2012's The National Health album, but then the pedal is firmly pressed down with Girls Who Play Guitars and Graffiti bringing proceedings to an end.
The venue is wrecked as we sort ourselves out for the journey home - the floor is a beery ice-rink and covered in the usual post-gig detritus. I chat to a group who are painting a mono-brow on their friend's face with eye liner. Not my way of celebrating a fantastic gig, but each to their own. They offer to do the same for me, but I decline politely - as a man in his fifties, I already have enough hair sprouting out of unexpected places with out adding to it. We head home, ears ringing, dreaming of Paul Smith, arms across his chest, dreaming of girls who play guitars...
Photo courtesy of Sarah
Do check out Maxïmo Park (whose name I discover that morning I have been mispronouncing for the last 17 years thanks to a colleague - it's Maxeemo!). I vow to get this right for the next seventeen years and have even worked out how to add the umlaut over the "I" in Maxïmo!