Few noughties indie bands have stood the test of time. Throughout a career that spans over a decade, and four distinct and gradually maturing albums, The Maccabees‘ fans have stuck firmly by them. After announcing that they would be peacefully splitting in August of last year, the long-awaited farewell shows in Birmingham, Glasgow, Newcastle, Manchester and, finally, London’s Alexandra Palace, did not disappoint. From the outset, the calm demeanour and stage presence of the band signified how much they have settled into their skin since their formation in 2004. Perhaps we can forgive them for choosing to call it a day while still in their prime.
Starting with the second album title-track ‘Wall of Arms’ perfectly showcased the band’s versatile sound and ambitious compositions that have seen them go further than others of their kind. About being surrounded by loved ones, it was a fitting way to begin the shows which guitarist Felix White described as “a huge celebration, thank you and goodbye to 14 years of writing, recording, playing and touring together.” The set list that followed entertained an equal split between the initial bittersweet anthems from Colour It In (2007) and Wall of Arms (2009), and the more recent, expansive ballads from Given to the Wild (2012) and Marks to Prove It (2015).
The upbeat and haunting vocals of ‘Feel to Follow’ eased the crowd in and created a euphoric atmosphere that lasted throughout the evening. With the audience knowing this would be the last time that The Maccabees would play live meant there were high-spirits and emotions all round, the crowd singing that little bit louder than previous performances.
‘Precious Time’ marked a pivotal moment in the set; the crowd singing the lyrics “let’s make time work for us” with a wistful and sentimental energy that continued through to ‘Can You Give It’. A mid-set breather came with the slower-paced track ‘Spit it Out’ followed by the melancholic ‘Silence’ from their last album, no doubt also bringing with it a few teary eyes. Lead vocalist, Orlando Weeks, knew how to lift things up again and dropped the line: “This is North London but what about South London, they have a leisure centre,” and the band catapulted into the scratching guitars and raw drumming of ‘Latchmere’.
Heartfelt and humble as ever, Orlando dedicated ‘Grew Up at Midnight’ to those who have “taken us on tour, sat with us, everyone at these gigs, the mediocre gigs, the good gigs, and The Idles and Mystery Jets who supported us tonight.” Teasing the bromance between the two alt-rock groups, he added “when we have looked to making music we have always wanted to emulate being as good as they are,” and then brought them back to the stage along with school-pal Jack Peñate and his tambourine for the last song ‘Something like Happiness’. The lyrics “if it’s over, let it be over” struck a chord with the audience, and there were plenty of embraces between the five on stage (please don’t actually let it be over!).
Though they exited the stage with wide smiles, The Maccabees returned with an encore that more than lived up to expectations. Following the same expert pairing of the old and the new, they rounded the evening with four favourites. Jamie T screamed the start of ‘Marks to Prove It’ and proceeded with an impressive guitar performance; a moment of déjà vu from the two indie legends remembering the forces on stage at Glastonbury 2015. The simplistic yet beautiful ‘Toothpaste Kisses’ and ‘First Love’ left the audience at Ally Pally overcome with emotion which rained down along with lashings of confetti that flew into the air for the finale song ‘Pelican’.
After a flurry of goodbyes, fans meandered out into Alexandra Park to overlook the capital to the sound of ‘Something Like Happiness’: “Ooooh, you just know, when you know, you just know.” Symbolic or what?!