It’s not always when bands split up that you get to go through the closure-giving act of physically saying goodbye at one last show. The Maccabees, ever with their fans at the forefront of their minds, have gone one better and headed out on a final farewell tour. By all accounts every show has been rife with emotion, old and new supporters alike shedding tears as they watch one of Britain’s finest bands of the last decade bow out.
Tonight (July 1) is what that string of dates has been leading up to – the ultimate, final time the five members will stand on stage together. If previous gigs were emotional, this one is the very pinnacle of heartbreaking. As soon as The Maccabees step out from the wings they’re greeted by an intense roar – of sorrow, of love, of gratitude – that rarely lets up throughout the whole set. The screens either side of Alexandra Palace’s stage flash close-ups of the band’s faces, each etched with a look of inner turmoil that comes when you’re thrown into situations that make you feel everything at once.
Their last hurrah isn’t about to be a maudlin affair, though. Instead, it’s a celebration of the last 14 years – ones that have been full of brilliant, world-conquering music and have seen the south Londoners go from indie upstarts to beloved cult heroes who had just started to receive the festival-headlining slots and Number One albums they deserved when they announced their split. “Let’s make this a euphoric celebration party,” says guitarist Felix White at one point. Anyone who’s seen The Maccabees before will be familiar with his puppyish on-stage enthusiasm, always ready to gee the crowd up. Tonight it’s like every other gig before was just a warm-up as he constantly encourages them to give a little more with every song.
Not that that encouragement is necessarily needed. Every song is clung to, sung loudly and heartily, from choruses right through to wordless moments of guitar hooks and bass lines. It doesn’t matter if they’re chart-bothering singles (‘First Love’, ‘Love You Better’) or heartwrenching album tracks (‘Silence’), every moment on the setlist is bellowed throughout Ally Pally’s cavernous hall.
The setlist gives a little sense as to why this band is so passionately loved. In it, you can trace the journey of a group who’ve always stayed true to themselves, always done what they found most interesting and exciting. ‘Latchmere’ is still the most buoyant indie disco anthem about a swimming pool and its wave machine, ‘Young Lions’ showcases frontman Orlando Weeks’ poetic way with words, ‘Feel To Follow’ charts their move into more intimate, atmospheric sounds, while ‘Marks To Prove It”s frenetic time changes and helter-skelter riffs will forever be a dazzling display of inventive songwriting.
The latter’s last outing is given an extra special gilding as the band invite Jamie T to join them on it. Just previously, ‘Something Like Happiness’ is made even more rousing than usual with the addition of Mystery Jets (who supported earlier in the night) and Jack Peñate. It’s a sweet nod to some of the other musicians The Maccabees broke through with and testament to the band’s character that, even at the one show that they’d be forgiven for making all about themselves, they choose to share the glory.
After touching versions of ‘First Love’ and ‘Toothpaste Kisses’, it’s nearly time for the whole thing to end, but both band and fans are going to extend things for as long as they can get away with. From the audience comes deafening, spine-tingling, thunderous yells and applause. On stage, the five Maccabees soak it all up. A defiant, carousing ‘Pelican’ unites everyone for one last time and then the rumbles of approval return, tear-stained and slightly disbelieving that it’s all over. Every now and then, the cheers turn to chants (strains of ‘Something Like Happiness’, specifically) that will continue long after the band have returned to their dressing room and long after fans have exited the venue.
“We knew we only had a little while,” sagely observes one line of the night’s final song. Ending The Maccabees now might feel like an abrupt act of robbery, but, as tonight’s flawless, staggering performances shows, the 14 years we’ve had them for will never be forgotten.