Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Maximo Park Rewards My Devotion with a Superb Show at Schubas -- Chicago Concert Review

Concert Review

Maximo Park
w/ Stagnant Pools, The Neighbourhood
Schubas, Chicago
September 17, 2012

If I were to look at your iPod, I would undoubtedly discover at least a few—if not several—musical artists with which I am unfamiliar but that you devotedly enjoy and follow. The British band Maxïmo Park is one of those acts for me.

I found their 2005 debut album, A Certain Trigger, to be the best album of the century’s first decade and although their two subsequent discs were each a step downward, their latest release, The National Health, is among the best new albums I’ve heard in 2012.

On Monday night, I saw Maxïmo Park live in Chicago with a relatively small but passionate crowd of fellow devotees at Schubas. The show, also featuring opening acts Stagnant Pools and The Neighbourhood--I enjoyed the former, a 2-piece band of brothers from Indy, a bit better than the latter--had been booked at Lincoln Hall, but was moved to its older-but-smaller sister venue, presumably due to middling ticket sales.

If you’re oblivious to Maxïmo Park, so be it; I just hope that whatever obscure bands you love deliver as satisfying a show as I got last night. For in a 90-minute, 22-song set—every one of which I enjoyed—Maxïmo Park further demonstrated that, IMHO, they are one of the best bands in the world today.

Coming on the heels of outstanding concerts by Bruce Springsteen and Elvis Costello, I’d be hard-pressed to award this one a full @@@@@ as it just didn’t have the emotional heft of the former or classic brilliance of the latter. But once the acoustics got worked out early on in a much-smaller room than Maxïmo Park plays in Europe, it was every bit as good a performance as I could have wanted.

Energetic, animated and amiable, Paul Smith is a first-class front man, providing the 5-piece band’s primary focal point in addition to crisp vocals. Mixing songs from all four of their studio albums, it was clear that the band has built up an estimable songbook and that The National Health has substantially enhanced it.

New tunes such as the album’s title cut, “Hips and Lips,” “Write This Down,” “The Undercurrents,” “This is What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” and “Waves of Fear” sounded great among A Certain Trigger chestnuts “Graffiti,” “Going Missing,” “I Want You to Stay” and “Apply Some Pressure.”

And while the band’s 2nd and 3rd albums aren't end-to-end excellent like the 1st & 4th, “Questing, Not Coasting,” “Our Velocity” and “By the Monument” showed that Our Earthly Pleasures and Quicken the Heart each have choice cuts that come off quite well in concert. (A Chicago setlist is not posted on Setlist.fm, but I believe it matches what Maxïmo Park played in New York.)

I had seen Maxïmo Park play a similarly stellar show in 2007—though their new material certainly added to this one—but they cancelled a U.S. tour in 2009, and with their brief current jaunt experiencing the downsizing of venues, who knows when they might be back again. So this review may be somewhat moot in terms of a recommendation that you see this band anytime soon.

But if you’re looking for someone new and worthwhile to add to your personal music universe, in my estimation you could do a lot worse than to explore Maxïmo Park. Start with the albums and just maybe, you’ll join me in looking forward to their next visit to Chicago. Or at least a concert DVD that isn't Region 2 only.

This is a video I shot of their first single and closing song, “Apply Some Pressure”:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello Seth-thanks for posting this.I have seen MP 7 times in all and have followed them for 7 years.A great band who are still underrated.
Please feel free to read my review of The National Health on amazon.com under the name of Juliet R.