REVIEW: The Maccabees, O2 Academy, Newcastle

The Maccabees in action at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Katy Blackwood.
The Maccabees in action at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Katy Blackwood.
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The Maccabees treated the audience to the live debut of a song from their latest album as they proved popular on their return to Newcastle.

Ribbon Road, the third track from Marks To Prove It, had never before featured in the band's setlist, despite extensive touring throughout the year.

The Maccabees in action at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

The Maccabees in action at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

It was one of a number of highlights from a lengthy, high-quality set, that ended with a well-received four-track encore which closed with classics Toothpaste Kisses and Pelican.

Although not sold out, there was barely standing room in the O2 Academy venue, with a surprisingly rowdy audience reacting strongly to every song from a band that have become one of the biggest indie-rock groups around.

Support for the date - the second on their latest UK tour - came from Drenge, who visited Newcastle as recently as September and are set to return again next year as part of the NME Tour.

But in contrast to the headliners, they proved disappointing in a live setting, and their set seemed to drag. Although deservedly acclaimed for their recorded work, it was a performance that was dull to watch and disengaging, the stage plunged into darkness with only the occasional flicker of light so the drummer could slur a few words to the crowd.

The Maccabees in action at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

The Maccabees in action at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

Although the band undoubtedly had their fans in attendance, it wasn't a support set to remember - even if the band's studio work remains excellent.

Such issues were never likely to affect The Maccabees' set, their live show well-honed from a recent U.S. tour and run of festival appearances in the summer.

Their latest album - the fourth from the London band - topped the Album Chart earlier this year, and received strong reviews in the build-up to its July release.

Kicking off with the album's title track, the first beginning of the set was a mixture of new and old, before the surprise first live appearance for Ribbon Road.

The Maccabees in action at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

The Maccabees in action at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

The Maccabees had debuted two songs the night previous in Nottingham - as is common on the first night of a tour - but this addition was unexpected.

For a first showing, it was an assured play, although the crowd lit up more for the old favourite that followed, 2009 hit Love You Better.

From there followed an attempt to represent every corner of the band's catalogue, from 2005 debut single X-Ray to the recent, well-loved Something Like Happiness.

At no point did the audience's spirits flounder, the singles and the favourites understandably sung along to slightly more loudly, but everything received devotedly.

The Maccabees in action at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

The Maccabees in action at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

The band weren't especially chatty, although Felix did take the time to remind his brother of a past gig cancellation in the city after he had his tonsils removed, and asked the audience to cheer for "tonsil-less Hugo".

Another anecdote was cut for time as the band cut out the chatter in order to fit in a mammoth 19-song set list before the curfew.

It was an audience that were surprisingly boisterous, and the increasingly-familiar "three more songs" chant started up as the band brought their main set to a close with Grew Up At Midnight.

But in the end, The Maccabees would go one better, playing River Song - only its second-ever live outing - and WWI Portraits from the new album, before closing with the slightly twee classic Toothpaste Kisses and indie hit Pelican.

The Maccabees in action at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

The Maccabees in action at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Katy Blackwood.