The crowd is in good spirits as people sing along and friendly heckle singer Paul Smith on this intimate first gig of the tour: “G’wan Paul you’re looking great!” Since the Northern English singer is better known for his frontman duties with indie rock band Maximo Park, there are a few fans in the audience that may be there just for seeing him rather than begging for the new stuff. Either way, the place is packed and the energy is high in the small cosy venue.
This time, as part of the solo tour, accompanied by three musicians, Smith is standing behind a guitar. A curious addition considering the beautiful fervent geek-a-thon that is his on-stage prancing and dancing with Maximo Park. During the first song The Public Eye the solo break comes and his ability on the guitar seems to be vindicated as he impressively rocks and grooves with the drummer. Then the silence breaks and Smith introduces the next verse with a clanger of four notes. However, with a cheeky grin and nod of the head it is sold as a humble error from a charming man.
As the gig progresses, we get to mostly hear songs from the recent LP Diagrams, the gaps filled with tracks from the back catalogue. The album songs really come alive as the four-piece band impressively fill the sound, along with guitar-wielding Smith; although shackled by guitar, he still moves engagingly, and his strong bellow grabs your attention. He is a strong presence on stage. As part of his rambling crowd discourse, he jokes: “…yeah you won’t catch the last bus if I continue on like this.” But the crowd love it.
The band end the set with the most boisterous number from the night: Silver Rabbit. Again, a spirited performance, as the band let loose here, reinvigorating the song to more raucous heights. Returning for the inevitable encore, Smith is now alone on stage for an intimate ending. Wary of the crowd’s fading stamina, the indie crooner explains his choice for three-song encore: “I once watched someone that I really like, and they played forever and I got a bit tired… I’m aware this could be a scenario that’s about to repeat itself here.” Capping off a perfect night, Smith ends the show with a stripped-down mash-up version of the two Maximo Park songs By The Monument and Apply Some Pressure. The crowd sings every word and the odd warm plastic cups of beer are enthusiastically raised.