Maybeshewill – Live at Belgrave Music Hall, Leeds, England (05/12/14)

Photo by Anneke Peeters

Talk about an early Christmas present. Entering the stage as misty figures glimpsed through the curtain of dry ice that filled it, the 5 members of Maybeshewill calmly picked up their instruments as the strains of “…”, intro track from this year’s “Fair Youth” album, played through the PA. And then POW! A wash of warm yellow light revealed them as they launched into “In Amber”. From the get-go this was a mesmerising performance.

For me, instrumental music, whether it considers itself post-rock or not, is about being carried on waves of feeling to which you are entirely free to add your own meaning. Maybeshewill’s carefully crafted music rises and falls, not elongating crescendos as some bands do but really putting their hearts and souls into the peaks. Hitting a high and dragging you along euphorically for the ride. You might think that playing as headline act for an instrumental band could seemingly blend into one long song. This is where Maybeshewill’s extensive touring has obviously paid off as their set list is perfectly punctuated with little moments such as the voiceover on Co-Conspirators or the standout moment that rose to a glorious crescendo seeing all the band singing the rousing refrain of “Now we’re apart but not through choice, do we stay mute or raise our voice?”

Setlist

...
In Amber
Co Conspirators
Red Paper Lanterns
Fair Youth
...In Another Life When We're Both Cats
Accolades
Sanctuary
Critical Distance
All Things Transient
In The Blind
To The Skies From A Hillside
Not For Want of Trying
Seraphim & Cherubim
He Films The Clouds Pt. 2

The latter part of the set showcased some of their heavier tracks, delving back to earlier albums and really refusing to let the crowd lose interest. Certainly there was a very bouncy contingent of older blokes who were seemingly trying their hardest to get some sort of bounce-along, rudimentary moshpit going. That’s another great thing about this music. It is universal. The crowd ranged from teens to quite possibly pensioners and as I looked around mid-set I could see everyone engaged in some way. Of course, the music could speak for itself, but that’s not the whole story. This band are really exciting to watch on stage. Particularly bass player, Jamie Ward and one of the guitarists, Robin Southby, who were constantly moving, punctuating pivotal points with sweeping arcs of their respective instruments. Bopping and twitching and flowing from chord to chord as if their entire bodies were the instruments required to forge the mountainous music that issued forth. And in between songs, it was nice to see them clearly all enjoying and seemingly being overcome by the crowd’s rapturous reception. All raising drinks in toasts and Robin taking a small bow between each song.

 A lot of the music from Fair Youth took on a new life here onstage. On the record, I considered this quite a tame album. Enjoyable but without the poignant drama of previous releases. Live though, the songs really breathe. The sheen of keys, piano, strings and synths from Matthew Daly are underpinned by the pounding of James Collins’ drums and Jamie’s chest rattling bass. The guitars of Robin and John Helps freely wander between wailing, soulful leads and chin thumping power chords.

The two encores of Seraphim & Cherubim and He Films The Clouds Pt2 are just enough to leave the crowd in a state of dreamy delight. We could have stood and swayed and listened to it all over again but all good things must end. An exceptional performance by a band who are obviously at the peak of their prowess. I can’t wait to see them again.

Pic from Antwerp show, not Leeds. Pic taken by Anneke Peeters.
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