EDITORS London Royal Albert Hall 17 May 2016
It's been a long time since Editors have been a support act, at the very least in the UK. Whilst this tour – aiding Manic Street Preachers Everything Must Go 20th Anniversary Tour – sees them playing arenas for the first time in a long time, Editors are no longer up and comers, and this seems to be the first admission by the band, 10 years in, that perhaps the upwards trajectory has plateaued, and that the momentum is starting to stall. Also, a six month absence from live performances caused by illness has somewhat derailed the band ; Editors then, a band with something to prove again, and somehow two bands at the same time. There's precious little from the bands first incarnation with guitarist Chris Urbanowcisz – three hits from the guitar years are dispatched in the first half, the rest being drawn heavily from their later approaches, the years where the band turned imperceptably from a four piece, to a expansive quintet, a band where strings and synths and brooding textures became as much part of the band as anything in their arsenal. Songs like “Ocean Of Night”, “Papillion”, and the final, layered “Marching Orders” are large, aspirational, multi-storied songs, which turn from one movement into another and another and another, like some kind of abstract texture.
Though they have had this lineup for four years now, the one that's birthed the most recent – and best – two albums – still feels new, and it's somewhat as if, through evolution, Editors have become two bands ; the barely recognisable indie upstarts that stood head and shoulders above the dreadful Indie Landfill of The Same Old Fucking Jeans, Vodafone Call Centre Clerks, and the recently dropped Hipsterpocalypse ; and the second band, also called Editors, that make huge, and impressionaistic epic slices of emotion. There's three songs from the most recent, and criminally under-rated 'In Dream', sandwiched inbetween the enormous “Papillon”. On record, “Papillon” is a three and a half minute cross-breed of moody, late night disco arpeggios and self-aware introspection. On stage, it's a huge jolt of electricity, a call to arms, and – by the sound fo the words – addressed to some kind of burden, a pain, an eternal weight, and to the inevitable sense of release when you escape. What it is is never quite specified, a person? , a situation?, a place – but the band execute it flawlessly, with a learned passion. Thom Smith channels the songs, becoming them, so to speak. To some, this is a self-referential indie dirge. To me, this is a light. So many songs are happy, or lusty, or about... nothing.. and if culture could be summed up in three words, most of it would be the Great Big Nothing, whereas these songs, the words matter. Words matter in songs. If Thom was singing WHOABLACKBETTYRAMALAM I wouldn't care how great the rest of the song would be : I wouldn't be interested. Art has to be about something... or it isn't art. That's really all there is to it.
Editors may be performing their hearts out to a half-full Albert Hall with a brutally short 40 minute set, but it was as strong, as good, as meaningful as any show I have seen them do. If, through all of it, there is one moment, it is Thom reaching out to the crowd, yearning for a connection, trying, and sometimes succeeding to achieve the one thing so few of us do. Only connect.
The Racing Rats
Smokers Outside the Hospital Doors
Ocean of Night