Maximo Park, The Forum, London

Whether Smith is gyrating, hip-shaking, or doing the robot, it’s all pulled off with a kind of furious joy.

Rating:

You’d have to be made of stone to not be charmed by Paul Smith. On stage, the singer is less Maximo Park’s frontman and more the Pied Piper of Teesside with a captive audience. From the get-go, the one-two punch of ‘Give, Get, Take’ followed hot on its heels by ‘Our Velocity’, the gauntlet is thrown down for a thrill ride through the band’s enviable history – and the charm offensive takes no prisoners.

Suited, shaded and with the trademark trilby firmly in place, he switches between faces and moods with mercurial ease, sometimes the suave, debonair showman and sometimes the silent movie star hamming it up for the crowd. But whether he’s gyrating, hip-shaking, or doing the robot, it’s all pulled off with a kind of furious joy: this is what Smith was born to do.

The setlist is just as dynamic and switches between the big hitters and newer cuts, with virtually the whole of ‘Too Much Information’ sneaked in. The jerky, changeable time sigs of ‘My Bloody Mind’, with a roaring, guitar-heavy chorus gets a strong reaction, whilst ‘Brain Cells’ dark, dubby disco and eerie disquiet is matched by the lights changing to the blue-indigo-violet end of the light spectrum. It’s the languorous ‘Leave This Island’ that really hits the mark though; the pulsating moodiness and low vocal register offset the band’s more boisterous moods, like a palate-cleanser.

A true romantic in every sense, Smith’s between-song talk touches on architecture and poetry, though there are moments when the political pulls rank. The rallying call of ‘The Kids Are Sick Again’ sees a megaphone whipped out, whilst the panicky state-of-the-nation address of ‘The National Health’ is given a blistering rendition, with Smith declaiming on England’s sickness like a firebrand preacher.

But he’s most in his element when singing about the state of his heart/head/bed, whether that’s melancholic (‘Books From Boxes’) or post-punk rockers (‘Girls Who Play Guitar’). It’s all sans scissor kicks due to an emergency eye op that sees the singer’s sunglasses remain firmly on face in case impromptu moves cause an “eye explosion”.

It’s a credit to his commitment that by the time the last song rolls around, there’s a sea of hands punching the air and a generalised reluctance to leave. After a night of 2,000 odd voices singing along in a north-east accent, it seems like no one can wait to be conquered by Maximo Park again and their show-stopping Renaissance Man.

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