Responding to rock’s need for more hats, Maximo Park singer Paul Smith answered the call with John Steed-like effectiveness at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles on September 21.
The frontman brings a glam element to the solid foundation laid down by his four bandmates. This is a very working class kind of glamor. Despite his affable, self-effacing disposition, Smith, along with the rest of the band, conducts himself with an impassioned efficiency.
In particular, drummer Tom English, while far from being the hardest two-and-four in the business, offers understated crisp and staccato back beats, augmented with his exquisite yet inconspicuous flourishes, demonstrating the contained fire that rages and burns whilst propelling the Maximo train.
Despite the El Rey being a quarter full, and despite spending the night driving in from San Francisco, Maximo Park’s work ethic prevented them from dialing in this performance on the last night of their U.S. tour. Similarly, just because the audience was diminutive didn’t mean it was going to roll over and accept just anything, which made the blistering, perhaps premature opening trio of tunes a dicey gamble on the band’s part.
The Newcastle five-piece kicked off with a flurry and a fury. The first three songs were amongst their top hits: “Graffiti,” “The National Health,” and “Girls Who Play Guitars.” For me, “The National Health,” the title track of their latest album, is one of the best singles of 2012. Its breakneck speed and cutting commentary infectiously slash to the bone, and its rousing chorus immediately energized the rather meager crowd.
There was an understandable dip in audience enthusiasm after the starters, but the band used this predicament to their advantage, clawing their way back to surpass that early peak: no easy task, and one which was compounded when they took it upon themselves to also showcase their previous album, Quicken the Heart, because they were unable to tour it Stateside.