EDITORS, London Brixton Academy, 14 November 2013
Determindedly in phase 2 of their career, Editors – now a five piece, return to their first UK tour in three and a half years ; a lifetime in modern music. Does anyone remember? Does anyone care? The sold-out Brixton show betrays so, but in some of the further cities there are still tickets available. London remembers, Exeter might not.
Tonight is a tale of two bands : the guitar indie-rock of a four piece Editors that ended in late 2008, and after that, the wider, more expansive music. The audience too, is cut into two halves, an intense hardcore of meaningful men with glasses, tattoos, and beards and their girlfriends : people who really feel this, and 4/5's that drink pints in plastic cups, jig a little to older songs and talk loudly during the newer ones. It's like watching two bands at the same time. On the European mainland, Editors are huge – selling out 19,000 tickets in Amsterdam, for example – yet here, they are a band that somehow has got an audience it doesn't deserve, and one that often doesn't deserve them.
Thomas Smith pours his heart out in songs like “Formaldehyde” and “Honesty” whilst a couple talk loudly about work right in front of me. Suddenly, it's “Munich”, and she squeals and he frugs and the room wakes up for three minutes before lolling back to an observant coma. It's like watching fans of early Radiohead at a Kid A gig. If you want to talk, go to the bar.
Sure! Let's clap patiently and wait for one of the old hits. New songs are peppered across the evening, somewhat apologetically, not letting the band deliver them as it always seems there is one eye on the next old song, which will be coming in a minute. Down the front, the audience is rapt. Up at the back, where I start the evening, the band are distant dots who have borrowed Sigur Ros lightshow and live in the past : 4 of the first 5 songs are over four years old, which for a band with 10 years history, is galling. The songs are all presented with belief and conviction. But there's not enough of the new stuff.
Not that it feels any different, the five piece band sound exactly the same (slightly thicker, if that be it) as the band always did. Thomas Smith plays slightly less guitar than previously. The band still power through the songs with the belief, as they always did, that these songs are a power. Every hit is present and correct - “Someone Says”, “An End Has A Start”, “A Ton of Love”. The latter of which still sounds like Echo & The U2's great lost song, somewhat at odds with the rest of the night, it's a huge, roaring rock animal.
In a move that thankfully eschews the usual encore move of shunting the big songs to the end, the final strait of the set is all more recent stuff ; the blistering “Honesty”, and an encore that has my three favourite Editors songs in a row : “Bricks And Mortar” (which is as it always is, glorious in a ways words can only diminish), “Nothing” (in the original band arrangement, a huge, ambitious thing), and “Papillon” which towers at around nine minutes. Each of these songs has something, hope in the face of adversity, insight, and above all, a sense of Not Giving In, the power of a song to help us in some small way through this world. And unlike Folkestone, they didn't get to stop the gig thanks to a riot. Seeing the band up close, the fervent self-belief in the material (not a fervent self-belief in themselves, this is not Aerosmith), the way they connect as individuals of one hive mind, and how Tom stands at the top of his keyboard, wildly emoting as he narrates a tale of some kind of self-worth in a world where each of us seems to be Prince Of A Thousand Enemies. This is a band that lost something but gained something else and are stronger now.
Still, I really enjoyed when they played “Munich” and “Desire” and that song about smoking.
Sugar – Someone Says – Smokers – Bones – ERM=BD – Two Hearted Spider – You Don't Know Love – All Sparks – Formaldehyde – A Ton of Love – An End Has A Start – Bullets – In This Light And On This Evening – Munich – Racing Rats – Honesty – Bricks And Mortar – Nothing - Papillion