It’s 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 gestation of the new album (three years and counting). Tonight (and the night after) are the only UK dates this year too…hardly a ringing endorsement that all’s well in the band. So would tonight 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 a great mix. They’re also notable for 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.
Recently signed to Columbia, Brum’s next big thing Peace have already recorded a brace of classic tracks, BBLOOD and Follow Baby (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 hint of grunge meets 80s jingle jangle pop to their best stuff and Follow Baby’s arguably one of the greatest teen anthems since Nervermind.
If Peace are the new kings of the Birmingham music scene Editors are surely their spiritual daddies. Formed way back in 2002 and having spent their formative years in the city, 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 Chris Urbanowicz jumped ship. 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 five-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.
What followed was a crowd pleasing mix of greatest hits and fan favourites with a few more newbies thrown in to test the water. It’s surprising just how many Editors tracks you’ll know and just how EPIC they sounded tonight. In fact, if anything, the ‘new’ Editors helped crank 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 is met with an equally heartfelt “We’ve missed you too” from Smith. There’s 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 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 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 that 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.
Review by Daron Billings
Photos by Gobinder Jhitta
For more photos of Editors live at the HMV Institute, see our gallery here.
For an alternative review and more photos see the July edition of Brum Notes Magazine, out on Friday.
All photos © Gobinder Jhitta Photography. Use of these images without prior written permission is strictly prohibited.