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The Maccabees

Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh, December 31

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The rise and rise of The Maccabees has been one of 2012’s more satisfying narratives: a band who have steadily progressed up the grease-smeared rungs of the indie ladder, improving and reaping an ever-expanding audience with each album. Tonight, frontman Orlando Weeks explains, is the last gig in support of their third album, ‘Given To The Wild’, before work begins on album number four (though he seems to have forgotten their month-long US tour in February).

It’s a terribly appropriate night for it – out with the old, in with the new etc – but being outdoors, in Scotland, in late December, it’s colder than a brass toilet seat. Circumstances happily bestow a burst of fireworks on ‘Feel To Follow’ (denoting one hour ’til midnight) but when guitarist Felix White urges everyone in the crowd to “Bounce up and down and wave your arms about!” during ‘Can You Give It?’, it’s easy to oblige – it seems as good a way as any to stave off frostbite.

On record, The Maccabees have been moving towards a more willowy, ‘Spirit Of Eden’-esque aesthetic, rather than the pastel-coloured indie pop that made their name, but their live sound is every bit as muscular and robust as you would expect from a band who boast three guitarists. Hopping from foot to foot with a stocking-cap pulled snugly over his head, Weeks occasionally resembles a boxer, albeit one rendered utterly non-threatening by his timid, kids’-TV-character croak (“Happy Hogmanay” he squeaks after set opener ‘Child’), and the oddly endearing habit of raising his hands to his temples every so often, as if he’s gesturing the word ‘D’oh!’. Still, when it all aligns – as it does on ‘Go’, or the dark, Morrissey-esque thrum of ‘No Kind Words’ – The Maccabees foster a sense of menace and mystery (and not a little beauty).

But that isn’t what people are out on the street in sub-zero temperatures for. The Maccabees aren’t obvious candidates for this sort of gig (unlike Simple Minds, who are emoting like nobody’s business on the other side of Princes Street Gardens), though they do have a handful of big singalong moments – such as ‘First Love’ (described by Weeks as “a love song to 2012”) and ‘Pelican’ – to keep the party atmosphere going. “You’ve all got better things to do tonight,” says Weeks rather humbly as they leave us, aptly, with ‘Grew Up At Midnight’. Frankly, nobody’s too sure about that.
Barry Nicolson

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