Thursday 22 October 2009

Editors, Sheffield Academy

It’s my first trip to the former Roxy nightclub that re-opened eighteen months ago as the Sheffield Academy. It has a capacity of 2,350 with a smaller room holding 500, just like in the other Academised venues that are springing up like a plague around the country. The places are no longer sponsored by that lager but now by a telephone network but as it's only a five year contract, so it’s not worth mentioning their name as presumably it all be soon passed over to someone else.

As we don’t know the layout of the place, we try to get there early to blag a good spot. We park right next door in a handy but eye wateringly expensive car park, we thought this was Sheffield not London, have they not heard of evening rates? At least we get in early enough to get a very good spot, right at the front and slightly to one side.

Two support bands are on the roster tonight and first up are Manchester’s Airship. Their particular brand of indie pop reminds me a little of Ride or at least how an updated Ride may sound. I’m quite impressed and it’s a shame when their short set is over.

In contrast I don’t really buy into second support band and find Wintersleep a little dull. They start well and finish well but the bulk of their set disappoints. They’re from Halifax's but they aren’t Yorkshire boys from just down the road, that is unless your road is in Nova Scotia.

Editors are from all over, although they are now based in Birmingham. The foursome met at Staffordshire University where they decided that studying Music Technology wasn't the thing for them and being in a band was much more fun. Perhaps the Music Technology studies are now coming in useful, as their new album ‘In This Light And On This Evening’ definitely shows a shift to their electronic side.

Opening with the epic title track, Tom Smith sits at his piano and swears to God, thereby uttering the first of many holy references this evening. Perhaps this is why there’s a ‘Jesus bus’ parked outside, perchance they’ve come to take him away ha ha. The song builds slowly as Smith paints his vision of London but tonight he twists the words to Sheffield, as I’m sure he does for every city he visits. Then the song breaks loose into an explosion of the guitars and the stage becomes a sea of coloured light. Not bad for starters.

The guitars stay out for the excellence of 'Bullets' and 'An End Has A Start' which gets the crowd going before we are slowed back down for the grim and evocative, ‘You Don't Know Love’ off the new album. This loses some vital momentum and that’s my only problem with the evening from here onwards.

The new songs paint quite a bit of gloom about the place and that combined with their unfamiliarity and complexity, means they don’t galvanise the audience like the older stuff does and the Academy cools off quite quickly. It’s a little disappointing and I for one thought the new material would take off better live than it did. Perhaps it's too soon to tour this album in its entirety, only ‘The Boxer’ is omitted tonight, an odd omission in itself as it’s probably more accessible than some of the others. The album only came out last week and people just aren't familiar enough with it yet.

Interspersed with the new stuff are a fair selection from both their Mercury Prize nominated debut ‘The Back Room’ and its follow-up the Brit Awards nominated ‘An End Has A Start’. The band were recently voted the second biggest British band of the decade by the Daily Mail???? Not that they’d know anything about it.

The older numbers never quite lift the crowd out of their stupor though, until near the end that is, as some the liveliest stuff has already been played or is being saved for later. In fact it simply highlighted the differences between the old and new; which are like chalk and cheese.

None of this would probably have mattered if Tom had spoken to us a bit more, perhaps even talked about the new songs but he says little from the off and gets quieter, apart from a muttered 'thank you' at the end of each song. Chatty he most definitely isn't. His ‘Sheffield’ reference in the first song was almost the last of the onstage banter. Lack of banter aside, he’s a busy chap performance wise, giving it everything he's got, as he moves from piano to synthesiser to guitar to microphone.

You get the impression that guitarist Chris and bass player Russell would like to converse with the audience, they’re all smiles and grins but perhaps they're not allowed to.

Poor Chris Urbanowicz, a Nottinghamshire lad from Aslockton, who impressively alternated between lead guitar and synthesizer all night, isn’t even allowed a microphone.

A lot of the older stuff is being played on rotation on this tour and although we do get a real rarity with a brilliant 'When Anger Shows', played for the first time on this tour, personally I’m gutted to not get 'Escape the Nest' or 'Fall', played elsewhere but not tonight, but I always want too much.

After the mid-set ‘dip’ we do get a great finale and the closest we’re going to get to a song introduction, with a 'this is an old one' as they play the fantastic ‘You Are Fading’, the ‘b’ side of their debut single ‘Bullets’ and featured on the ‘Cuttings’ CD. The song may be a bit of an unknown to the casual fan but it’s a live favourite and does sound stunning live.

This sets off a rather good run of songs. ‘Camera’ too sounds much better live than on record and then the crowd are energised as the pace is picked up again with 'Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors'.

Then they close the set with the rather wonderful, and my fave of the new album, ‘Bricks and Mortar’. Six very short minutes of brilliance. Tom bidding farewell and singing about how he hoped 'life was good for you'. Yeah not bad mate since you ask. Encore please.

They return with another moody newbie, the haunting ‘Walk The Fleet Road’, another song that builds slowly and it makes the hairs on the back of your neck quiver tonight. Utterly wonderful. Then finally there’s mayhem down the front as a 'Munich'/'Papillon' double bill tumbles forth from the stage. Now belatedly the crowd are really getting into it and a lively encore is brought to a close with ‘Fingers In The Factories', another song that sounds epic live rather than just plain good on record.

All in all a good gig but not a great one.

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