The best part of any hillside walk is the view from the top, and nowhere is that more evident than the winding path towards Alexandra Palace.
The Victorian monument and one-time BBC broadcasting house is perched upon one of London’s most scenic hills, a vantage point that pours down across the capital, especially on balmy summer nights such as these.
The Maccabees have been climbing another hill over the past few years, one that has seen them crawl out of the indie landfill and reach the top of the charts. Tonight, though, is the middle leg of their final trilogy, a hop, skip, and jump before finally calling it quits.
Selling out Ally Pally three times over is nothing to be sniffed at, though, and it’s a superb achievement for a band who conjure enormous affection from fans. A support set from Mystery Jets helped heighten the evocation of a certain era, something the army of indie kids who descend upon North London are no doubt aware of.
Opening with ‘Wall Of Arms’ it’s clear that this is a taut, urgent set from The Maccabees, a group wary of tarnishing this evening with any mistakes. The sound is almost visceral at times, the lyrics barked and the guitars searing their way up into the ceiling and out into the London night.
It’s a broad set, with The Maccabees underlining the potency of those four studio albums. Moving from indie hopefuls to genuine festival headliners, the band were able to broaden their sound while maintaining their impact – literate, intelligent guitar that sits in a warmly British lineage.
The hits, of course, are what unites us. ‘Love You Better’ is wonderful, a moment of charming unity, while ‘Latchmere’ - famously named after a wave machine – is a glorious tribute to the South London streets that brought them together.
The deep cuts, too, serve as a reminder of how fresh, how inspired The Maccabees can be. Debut single ‘X-Ray’ sounds incredibly bombastic, with the group’s expanded line up hauling out new elements from a track initially released to little fanfare all the way back in 2005.
Mystery Jets and long-time fan Marcus Mumford join the group during the encore, lending their backing vocals to a rousing ‘Something Like Happiness’, and it’s both joyous and endlessly sad. A clearly moved Orlando Weeks addresses the crowd, before the full band hug together and take one last bow.
In the days following the show Spotify release some interesting figures. Streams of the band’s material rose exponentially, they said, but this was dominated by their early material, with ‘Toothpaste Kisses’ - from debut album ‘Colour It In’ - leading the pack. It’s remarkable, then, that songs from recent album ‘Marks To Prove It’ - a number one record, after all – fail to poke their nose into the rundown.
But then, perhaps that’s simply evocative of an era passing. The indie boom was the final gasp of an analogue system, and the feeling of collective sensation – tuning in late night Radio 1 or buying the NME – has largely been lost. Chart positions may rise, but the ability to actually capture people’s attention, to puncture the wider malaise, has lessened.
It’s there in the supporting cast, and it’s there in the general age of the crowd. Leaving Alexandra Palace and watching the long, long line of fans descend the hill, it feels less like a passing of the torch than a dimming of the lights.
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