LIVE REVIEW: Paul Smith and The Intimations, The Cluny, Newcastle

Paul Smith and The Intimations at The Cluny in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.
Paul Smith and The Intimations at The Cluny in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

Maxïmo Park’s livewire frontman Paul Smith seems like the sort of bloke who can’t sit still for long.

His energetic performance makes him the sort of figure you can’t take your eyes off as the Newcastle band pound out their exhilarating indie-rock.

There’s another side to him too, however, and that’s the one which channels his songwriting energies into less frenetic, more reflective slices of alt-pop.

Many of those songs wouldn’t fit the Maxïmo template, so he’s aired them via a side project, with an entirely different band, The Intimations.

Very good they are too; new album Contradictions is one of my favourite releases of the year so far, with Smith’s distinctive vocals given more room to shine than amid Maximo’s breathless assault.

Hailing from Billingham, but resident for many years in Newcastle, this was very much a hometown gig for the self-effacing singer, who remains as humble as they come.

The Intimations also gives him the chance to show off another side to his talents, as he plays guitar as well as singing.

After warm-up sets from local singer Nev Clay and Canadian indie-folk artist Devon Sproule, the Intimations hit the stage on Friday night to the opening track from the album, the Deep End.

After an early technical hitch, the four-piece - Smith, Warm Digits drummer Andrew Hodson, Claire Adams on bass and a guitarist whose name I’m afraid I didn’t catch (sorry, fella) - soon hit their stride.

Most of the album received an airing, along with a couple of songs from Smith’s 2010 solo album Margins.

Paul Smith and The Intimations at The Cluny in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

Paul Smith and The Intimations at The Cluny in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

Lead single Break Me Down was an obvious highlight, but so were Reintroducing The Red Kite, even better live than on record, and the lovely, atmospheric All The Things You’d Like To Be.

For those who know and respect their North East music history there was a special treat: an appearance by Wendy Smith from Prefab Sprout on vocals for a couple of songs.

She appeared nervous at first, but soon grew into the vibe, and left with a smile on her face as big as those worn by the appreciative crowd.

The band were obviously enjoying themselves, and even found time to indulge in a touch of onstage jamming, a familiar-sounding opening chord prompting them to launch into Crowded House’s Don’t Dream It’s Over and Dire Straits’ Sultans of Swing.

Paul Smith and The Intimations at The Cluny in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

Paul Smith and The Intimations at The Cluny in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

Anyone expecting a handful of Maxïmo tracks scattered into the set might have left disappointed, but that wasn’t what tonight was all about.

Fans will presumably have tickets for their City Hall show in November anyway.

No, tonight was about an album which is every good as most of Maxïmo’s work, but subtly different.

Let’s hope the man behind it doesn’t leave it five years before making another one.

Wendy Smith of Prefab Sprout joined Paul Smith and The Intimations onstage at The Cluny in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

Wendy Smith of Prefab Sprout joined Paul Smith and The Intimations onstage at The Cluny in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

Paul Smith and The Intimations at The Cluny in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

Paul Smith and The Intimations at The Cluny in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

Prefab Sprout's Wendy Smith with Paul Smith and The Intimations at The Cluny in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

Prefab Sprout's Wendy Smith with Paul Smith and The Intimations at The Cluny in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

Paul Smith and The Intimations at The Cluny in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

Paul Smith and The Intimations at The Cluny in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.