“Our second album’s built for the stadiums.”
We’ve heard plenty of variations on that theme recently, with the likes of Razorlight and The Killers living out their Bono fantasies while trying to remain indie heroes. The Editors, it seems, are no different. Their pitch black, anthemic gloom-rock proved a lucrative alternative to the Libertines copyists in 2005, sending album The Back Room to number two in the charts and yielding the ubiquitous single Munich. If at times they sounded a bit too much like Joy Division, a potential for something bigger and better was definitely apparent. So, are they up to the job, or will they fall into the trap of empty bombast? (Yes, that’s you, Mr Borrell).
This tour is primarily a sneak preview of forthcoming opus An End Has A Start, and with the set comprising equally of new and old stuff, it gives us ample opportunity to judge how productive the past year has been for the band. Opening with an unreleased song is always a risk. Bones is a stunning widescreen behemoth that combines soaring guitar lines with Tom Smith’s trademark dramatic intensity, and sets the template for the other selections from the new album. Perhaps not so much of a risk after all, then.
On the whole, the new songs sound stylistically similar to Bullets, All Sparks et al, but are grander and more ambitious. The band have never had much of a stage presence, but when the quality of the music is as high as spine-tingling new single Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors, they could play with their backs to the audience for all it mattered.
Smith has always been quick to point out his band’s anthemic strengths, and often proclaimed his belief in their suitability to large venues rather than dingy sweatboxes. Brilliant early hits Bullets and Blood always vindicated him to a certain extent, and now the set is chock full of songs which are easily their equal. A down side to this at the moment, though, is the unfamiliarity of the unreleased material. It’s respectfully listened to by the fans, and gets a favourable reaction, but ultimately prevents the gig from ever really taking off.
Before launching into set-closer Fingers In The Factories, Smith implores everyone to ‘remove the roof,’ which they duly do, however it’s all a little too late. In a few weeks these exciting new songs will have entered the nation’s consciousness.For now, though, they hamper a gig that often threatens to erupt, but never actually does. When Munich inspires the inevitable deafening singalong, one can’t help but be disappointed that Smith then takes a seat at the piano and strikes up another unheard ballad. Consequently, the night ends up as an intriguing listen, rather than an engrossing experience.
When they’re one of Britain’s biggest bands, as they surely will be soon, all this will matter little. Tonight was a display of assured ambition. May the motorbikes, cowboy suits and Kirsten Dunst never enter the equation.