The Maccabees paid a fond farewell to Manchester at a party which didn’t disappoint. Throughout the band’s final gig at the city’s Apollo on Wednesday night, ahead of their final dates at London’s Alexandra Palace, there was a feeling of joy rather than sorrow. This was a celebration of their work, and what their songs mean to so many. The vast majority of the sold out crowd were teenagers when the group, fronted by Orlando Weeks, released Colour It In, back in 2007. And, now 10 years later they were ‘mature’ grown-ups saying goodbye to music which helped shape them.
Mystery Jets, who The Maccabees actually started out supporting, had the honour of opening for their friends in Manchester. Lead singer Blaine Harrison spoke of his great admiration for the group, as Mystery Jets played a set including Serotonin and Young Love. They joked of an unfortunate incident when the bands first played together – in the early 2000s, The Maccabees had rushed up from Brighton to Manchester for a gig at the city’s Jabez Clegg venue only to discover they weren’t actually on the bill and were squeezed on for just 10 minutes before heading back down south. Since then, things got a fair bit better, as The Maccabees released four acclaimed albums and bagged a much-deserved Number 1 for 2015’s Marks To Prove It.
There was euphoria from the masses when the headliners took to the stage a little after 9pm. Fans, adorned with The Maccabees merch, were treated to a polished set which spanned their fine back catalogue. There was no messing about with favourites Feel To Follow, Love You Better and Precious Time all getting airings early on. Each song earned more acclaim than the last with the applause and cheers taking an age to end after every number. Weeks and his bandmates were noticeably overwhelmed at times by the affection.
As they witnessed those scenes from the Manchester stage you do wonder whether they might be regretting calling it a day, although perhaps they are following the old adage of going out at the top. And on this night The Maccabees were as good as they’ve ever been. When considering why they’re finishing it is also worth noting that Weeks has spoken with real honesty about the strains the band encountered creating Marks To Prove It. And, perhaps we should just be thankful that they stayed together long enough to give us one of the best indie albums of recent years.
It all got a bit pantomime when guitarist Hugo White gave the crowd one opportunity to boo the group’s decision to split and as you can imagine the howls were deafening. There was a real sense of fun, and Weeks, who can at times seem unassuming on stage, appeared liberated, as though a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. There were times he was bouncing up and down as well as playfully goading his audience. He joked of people becoming a little too timid to crowd surf. The softly spoken Weeks said: “I can see you want to. I guess, when you guys first came to see us you were all students and now you’re probably all doctors, and things are a little different.”
And, perhaps in a roundabout way, that’s why it’s the right time for The Maccabees to finish. One of the biggest singalongs of the evening came for Latchmere, while confetti rained down for closer Something Like Happiness. And of course the band weren’t going to say goodbye without an encore. The rowdy and rambunctious pleaser Marks To Prove It, from the album of the same name, kicked off the four-song workout which ended with Pelican. During the latter, so many people were on the shoulders of friends and strangers, and everyone was covered with confetti one last time.
There were no tears at the end; instead the bandmates were jumping around and cheering like footballers who’d just scored a last winner in a cup final. There were no falsities, instead, just the feeling of a group who’d achieved what they set out to. Arguably, The Maccabees deserved a Glasto Other Stage headline berth this summer and there’s no doubt British indie music will be a much poorer place without them. They’ve certainly left their mark.