‘So whose is this first Maccabees’ gig?’ energetic guitarist Felix White asks the 2,000 adoring fans in Birmingham’s dimly lit O2 Institute. As people raise their hands in the packed out venue, White scoffs, ‘well you’re a bit late to the party then, aren’t you!’
He has a point: in a career that has lasted over thirteen years, The Maccabees have finally come to an end. Announcing last August to the heartbreak of anyone who had an indie phase in the past ten years that the band were to split up, this gig was the first in the band’s farewell tour.
Looking round the venue you were struck by one thing: this was, quite noticeably, an older crowd than you might have expected. This was a gig filled out by the people who had been there since the beginning, and those that had joined the wave ever since. For a moment, you got the sense that this was the right time to bow out, before the balloons had all deflated; as the band sing on ‘Young Lions’, no one wants to be the last ones left standing at a party.
But as the snake like guitar lines of ‘Wall of Arms’ encased us followed by its damning wall of trembling riffs, any qualms that the night was going to be a disappointment were left there. With an unbeatable energy that frontman Orlando Weeks seemed to challenge the crowd with in ‘Can You Give It’, this was The Maccabees at their peak.
It is not surprising that in an evening baked in nostalgia and youthful reminiscence, that golden oldies like ‘Precious Time’ and ‘Latchmere’ produced some of the liveliest moments of the night.
This was a setlist that was cased in unsaid goodbyes. It balanced perfectly their old material and new, and beautifully tracked the band’s maturation over the years. ‘Kamakura’ depicted the battles of getting old, and ‘Silence’ bought the crowd together in a moment of reflection about moving on. The setlist voiced what no one wanted to voice: that this is it. The band make little reference to the fact that this is a farewell gig, but racing through songs like ‘Something Like Happiness’, the message is painted clearly before us.
In the set’s closing song, ‘Pelican’, the line ‘one thing’s for sure, we’re all getting older’ rings a little bit too true. But, for this night, it doesn’t matter. For the duration of the gig, we were all still 15 and dancing around our bedrooms hairbrush in hand, as The Maccabees exuberant energy filled the room. But, in following traditional set-closer ‘Toothpaste Kisses’ (which was sung back at the band with a festival-like roar) with the firecracker that is ‘Pelican’, the band went out on a high, rather than bathing in the underlying sadness of the night.
As the chords to ‘Grew Up at Midnight’ chimed towards the end of the set, the room was held in an electric stillness. Throughout the night, The Maccabees reminded us as to why we let them soundtrack our adolescence and, now, as the show came to a close, we couldn’t help but feel that we really had grown up, with The Maccabees there waving us off into the night of adulthood as their day as a band comes to an end.