It seems to have been a bit of a testing time for Editors recently, what with the recent departure of original lead guitarist and keyboardist Chris Urbanowicz (due to that old favourite ‘musical differences') and the seemingly long, slow, painful gestation of the new album (three years and counting). Tonight (and tomorrow) are the only UK dates this year too...hardly a ringing endorsement that all’s well in the band perhaps. So would the evening be an exercise in treading water, a final farewell or a defiant two fingers to the doubters?
First up Free School who’ve got a bit of a Balearic Bladerunner vibe about them...in other words one moment there’s an edgy coldness to their music the next it all goes a bit blissed out and a little ravey. It’s an oddly great mix. Equally odd are their ever so slightly terrifying masks...some kind of sheep type creature. So next time you see a sheep going three flavours of mental at Aya Napa it’s probably listening to Free School (PS: By a freaky coincidence as I wrote this a Free School track came on Lauren Laverne’s 6 Music show...spooky).
Recently signed to Columbia Brum’s next big thing PEACE have already recorded a brace of classic tracks, BBLOOD and Follow Me (both delivered with a cool nonchalance this evening) and if there’s any justice in this world they’ll soon be playing stadiums, humping super models and sniffing coke off Will.i.am’s ball sack. There’s a pleasing hint of grunge meets 80’s jingle jangle pop to their best stuff and Follow Me’s arguably one of the greatest teen anthems since Nervermind (oooohhh that riff’s sexy). They look cool, they sound cool and...bugger me...they are cool.
If PEACE are the new kings of the Birmingham music scene Editors are their spiritual daddies. Formed in the City way back in 2002 they’ve since released a trio of albums notching up the odd million seller or two. Given this history it’s entirely appropriate that they chose to come back here to play their only UK dates of the year, just weeks after losing founder member Chris Urbanowicz. In fact lead singer Tom Smith recently tweeted that these gigs represented something of a rebirth for the band and, from the outset, it was pretty clear that this evening was more than just a case of going through the motions. Smith’s a pretty intense performer and new track Sugar, a brooding 5 minute piece that opened the show, is the perfect vehicle for him. He spent most of it sitting at the piano twitching with nervous energy and flamboyantly throwing out his arms like a man possessed, seemingly conducting some kind of unseen spirit. There’s always been a darkness to Editors music and any lingering thoughts of a radical change in direction on album number four are rapidly squashed from the off (I guess that Editors happy hardcore album will have to wait for another day then).
What followed was a crowd pleasing mix of greatest hits, near misses (Eat Raw Meat = Blood Drool was a revelation tonight...a hidden gem) and fan favourites with a few more newbies thrown in to test the water. It’s surprising just how many Editors tracks had seeped into my head and just how EPIC they sounded tonight. In fact if anything the ‘new’ Editors (I think there’s a pair of ‘em) helped cranked the EPIC up to 11. Bullets, Blood, All Sparks, An End Has A Start...each one stadium rock-tastic.
Unsurprisingly there’s a whole lotta love in the room for the band and a “We’ve missed you!” shout out from the crowd early on is met with an equally heartfelt “We’ve missed you too” from Smith. There’s also a sea of arms raised to the roof for most of the gig, visually reinforcing just how much this band means to the faithful. They save the best for the encore though. On top of an orgasm inducing Munich (well one young lady near me seemed particularly ‘moved’ by it all) they played another new track that tonight might well have seen Tom’s best ever live vocal. Two Hearted Spider’s been around a while I think but it’s yet to get a full studio release. Skeletal guitars, more synths than previous Editors stuff, a big phat drum beat and Tom singing like a dude who’s had his heart ripped out then slowly torn into pieces right in front of him. Ouch. Some singers merely sing but the best ones ‘feel’. This was just such a performance. After the crowd clapped joyfully through Papillion (and a brave few did their best to crowd surf) Tom finally revealed they’d be back next year with their new album...so any lingering fears that these gigs represented their swansong seem to be unfounded. All sparks may well burn out in the end but tonight this one burned brighter than ever...
PS: Photos by kind permission of the lovely Mr Wayne Fox