Maximo Park @ Sheffield Leadmill

‘Write a review, how objective can I be?’

Maximo Park are undoubtedly Britain’s most underrated band. It is utterly baffling how distinctly average bands like Kasabian and Courteeners continue to enjoy unprecedented success and yet Newcastle’s finest toil just outside of the limelight. This status as plucky underdogs, even six albums in, only adds to their charm however.

Before my love letter to Maximo Park really begins though, a quick word about the support band. Pins are an all female quartet from Manchester who combine the vocal stylings of the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s with the bratty attitude of the riot grrrl movement.¬† The band already have two albums out and while there is a suspicion they are yet to capture the raucous nature of their live shows on record, they are still well worth checking out.

Pins at Sheffield Leadmill. Photo – Carolanne Johnson

Maximo Park come racing out of the blocks with two new tracks. ‘What Did We Do To Deserve This’ combines a stop start rhythm in the verse with a melodious chorus to achieve something great and unique and the titular ‘Risk to Exist’ is treated like an old friend by the rowdy crowd. There is a degree of excitement about the Maximo Park’s sixth album¬† and the band clearly enjoy playing the new songs live. Crucially, the crowd love hearing them too.

Paul Smith’s lovelorn but impertinent lyrics have always been the bands strong point, so it is a little worrying to see Risk to Exist standing as the first overtly political Maximo Park album. The band mostly pull it off however, with ‘Work and Then Wait’ being particularly well received. Smith is an incredibly engaging frontman who is constantly moving and snarling in time to the music. Smith looks like how I imagine I look like when I dance, robotic yet fluid, but in reality I probably look more like keyboardist Lukas Wooller, simple and enthusiastic…

It is ten years since Maximo Park’s second album and masterpiece Our Earthly Pleasures and the Sheffield crowd are treated to various cuts from that record in the shape of ‘Books From Boxes’, ‘Nosebleed’, ‘Our Velocity’ and ‘Girls Who Play Guitars’. Refreshingly, the band have been performing a different album track from Our Earthly Pleasures every night and Sheffield is lucky enough to receive a rare and ferocious outing of ‘By The Monument’.

One of the great things about seeing a band live is the moment when you finally get a song that you have never connected with before. ‘This Is What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted’ has always been nothing more to me than a great song title but upon hearing it live the penny finally drops.

To the casual listener, Maximo Park’s stunning debut A Certain Trigger will always be the bands most well known album. The key to their success as a live band is that when they play ‘Going Missing’ or ‘Apply Some Pressure’, the band look just as enamoured with the songs as they always have. Maximo Park are a band that believe in their music and this naturally extends to their modest but passionate fan base. Indeed, the only possible complaint at the end of the evening is the lack of ‘Grafitti’ but the band have such an extensive back catalogue it barely registers.

Smith has an easy presence with a relaxed, between song, patter that is at odds with his frantic dancing. The crowd enjoy the repartee almost as much as the songs and in a room full of self deprecation, he never misses the opportunity to poke fun at himself. At one point he laments the end of the bands career as they ‘amateurishly’ lose a microphone.

Maximo Park lead singer Paul Smith

It is a testament to the quality of the new album that when ‘Get High (No I Don’t)’ closes the set it doesn’t feel like an anti climax. This is a band hitting their peak more than a decade after they first burst onto the scene. Maximo Park will probably never receive the universal adulation they deserve but for those in the know there is simply nobody better.

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