On the Friday, half way through the week-long, non-stop party that is the Festival Internacional de Benicàssim, the best part of 45,000 revellers made their way to the Main Stage arena to witness one of the most greatly anticipated acts on a bill dripping with talent. Anxious fans were standing through Bob Dylan, just waiting for The Maccabees to come on – if that isn’t an indicator of the widespread appeal of this band, then nothing is.
A number of spectators to whom I had spoken told me in no uncertain terms that this was not their first time seeing the band who, since their incredibly successful debut album Colour It In, have not taken their foot off the pedal in terms of quantity or quality of output. This should come as no surprise when you take into account just how tirelessly they’ve been touring and making festival appearances over the course of their three studio albums.
The band have mentioned in interviews since that following Bob Dylan was a daunting prospect, describing it as “one of the most surreal things that will ever happen to us.” But if there were ever any worries, they effectively vanquished them as the Spanish sun set and darkness descended upon the festival, by carelessly pirouetting into ‘Child,’ taken from their newest studio album Given To The Wild.
Weeks, in his (what could now be considered) trademark quivering style, enveloped and delicately wove the crowd together with a string of silken and heartfelt lyrics, coaxing them into an arms-around-shoulders sing-along, before the explosion of an instantly recognisable guitar riff sent bodies hurtling in every conceivable direction… and therein lies the beauty of seeing the Maccabees live.
Such mastery was never more prominent as during failsafe indie-classics as ‘First Love’ and ‘Precious Time,’ or new favourites ‘Feel to Follow’ and ‘Pelican.’ Whichever the song, the crowd eagerly drank down every last note and lyric, chased in equal measure by lethal-sized beverages, generating an electric atmosphere which was truly astonishing to behold.
My only criticism would be the under-representation of their first and, to my mind, most seminal album, only making three appearances on a thirteen-strong bill (I was waiting for ‘Toothpaste Kisses’). But to bemoan an unwillingness to hang on to the past is but to demonstrate the band’s intent to keep moving forward and creating what they hope will be, in years to come, considered some of the greatest British songs of our generation.
It’s testament to the continued colossal success of the nomadic festival veterans that when Orlando announced that the next song was to be set’s ultimate, requests came screeching in from every corner of a crowd so large that it left most other stages desolate. But when ‘Grew Up at Midnight’ brought a culmination to yet another display of just how impressive The Maccabees are live, there were no complaints and nor should there have been. Whilst some may argue that this they haven’t done enough to elevate themselves to the ‘lofty’ heights of being household names, their showmanship and ability cannot be so easily dismissed. This was The Maccabees on their finest form.
By Greg Cohen