Newcastle’s precious time with The Maccabees came to a close as they played one of their few farewell shows, having announced they were to split last year.
The Maccabees’ split has been an odd one, and came as quite a surprise to just about everyone other than the band. They’re the second noughties indie band to announce their split in quick succession after we lost The Enemy last year, but unlike the Enemy – who in truth were struggling to keep their music prominent – The Maccabees were coming off the biggest wave of momentum of their career when they announced they were calling it quits. Despite being perhaps one of the less renowned artists of the indie boom that occurred in that decade, they were one of the most relevant coming in to this one. It seemed like through patience, persistence and hard work, they’d managed to wrestle their way to fame. Their fourth album “Marks to Prove it” finally achieved them the number 1 album they deserved, and even a headline slot at Latitude. It felt like a gutting blow to lose another great indie band.
The reasoning for why they broke up felt mostly unclear as well. The messages they posted – while sincere – felt a bit vague. The best that could be derived from them was that they wanted to end on their creative peak without going backwards and tarnishing their reputation. Perhaps they felt they couldn’t top the run they had with their last album, and would be better off perusing other projects. Guitarist Felix White is a co-founder of a record label, and so seems will be spending time working on that.
Before the show, this atmosphere kind of leaked into the room. It didn’t feel like a farewell gig. Something felt a bit off, it didn’t feel big or as significant as it should’ve done, which wasn’t helped by the fact the gig wasn’t a sell out. But when they started playing, the ambience changed completely…
They opened up with second album title track “Wall of Arms” and received an ovation of proportions seen usually only at the end of a show, not the end of the first song. Orlando Weeks’ greetings were almost completely drowned out, at one point I wasn’t sure they’d ever get to start the second song. One thing was for sure, if The Maccabees were going to go out, Newcastle was going to make sure they weren’t going out quietly, they were going out dancing.
“Feel to Follow”, “Love You Better”, “Young Lions” and “Can You Give It” followed before possibly the most apt track of the evening, fan favourite and Maccabees classic “Precious Time”. “Come on Newcastle it’s the last time let’s here you” ordered Felix as the crowd ramped up a notch.
Tracks from “Marks to Prove it” heavily featured also, with “Spit it Out”, “Kamakura”, “WW1 Portraits” and “Silence” all making an appearance.
“Those who’ve seen us before will know this kind of thing isn’t my strength” quipped Orlando before introducing the next song, bringing a smile to the faces of his bandmates. “Here you have the Tyne Bridge. It’s beautiful, but it doesn’t have a wave machine”, leading the band into “Latchmere”, one of the better songs in their repertoire about their childhood swimming lessons sporting the lyric: “Latchmere, has a wave machine”. The band whipped through it’s rapid rhythms at breakneck speed, the only way a song with such pace and energy can be.
Colour it In classic “X-Ray” also featured, with fans recognising it after just the first note. The band paused to rally up a crescendo of noise before breaking into the song. “Lego” and “No Kind Words” both appeared before “Something Like Happiness”, after which the band briefly left the stage. They were shortly welcomed back to a rousing applause, going straight into the title track from their last album “Marks to Prove it”, and in keeping with their own lyrics, only had kind words to say about the Newcastle crowd.
“Sometimes you play to a room and it just feels great” Orlando told the crowd, “tonight there’s being a real feeling of welcoming, friendliness and togetherness, and that doesn’t come along that often”. It was easy to see what he meant as well. It really felt as if the crowd were singing, dancing and celebrating their career with them. It felt as if they’d been part of the band, and were as much a part of the show and their career as The Maccabees themselves.
“First Love” followed, before “Toothpaste Kisses” from their first album, which provided another perfect opportunity for a mass sing-a-long, as the band found themselves gently serenaded by voices echoing their music back at them.
They finally closed a substantial set the only way they really could, with their best known track: “Pelican”. It was an appropriate end, welcomed with the response to match, as the band finished up playing the city for the final time.
As the lights came up and it sunk in that we’d seen The Maccabees for the last time, “God Only Knows” by The Beach Boys rang round the venue’s PA. “God only knows what I’d be without you” a poignant line sang by all in the venue as they filtered out, perhaps chosen by the band as a nod of appreciation to the loyal support they’ve always received from their fans. Fans who’d never really felt let down once by the band across their whole career, bellowed the message back to them, for many of whom, The Maccabees had been a significant part of their lives for a substantial amount of time.
Throughout the show, they sounded crisp, smooth, polished and distinctive, with a presence to match. Their set was a cocktail of their best loved and most successful hits, and their best pieces of delicate indie mastery, from each of their individual unique sounding albums. They played like a band at the top of their game, if their wish was coming off at their creative peak, this night was evidence that their wish has been granted.