Wednesday, March 19, 2014

An inverse sense of proportion: Editors at La Cigale, Paris

© 2014 Simon Poulter

For over 50 years we have blithely accepted the fact that Doctor Who's spaceship, the TARDIS, is bigger on the inside, and that a Metropolitan Police phone box from the early 1960s is capable of holding the equivalent floor space of a split-level penthouse apartment.

This Einstein-bothering concept is achievable, we are informed, only by the canny ability of yer Time Lord to bend space in much the same manner as one packs for flying with Ryanair.

However, I have news: Editors, for the past 12 years British guitar pop’s perennial future, appear to have a similar capability for inverting the laws of physics. For that is the only explanation I can come up with for how they managed to turn the diminutive La Cigalle theatre in the Pigalle district of Paris into a cavernous arena.

Nasal hair-singeing amplification and copious reverb are normally the main means for bands and their sound engineers to fit quarts into pint pots, and thus it appeared to be so on St. Patrick's Night as Editors unleashed their expansive, perfectly wrapped, 80s-style alt-rock like an escaping rare gas.

Editors are, apparently, much-maligned, and I really don't know why. Reviews of perfectly good albums (four to date) have met with sneering derision and gigs that have delighted the many have drawn barbs from the published few. Throughout their history, they have endured less than favourable comparison with the likes of Joy Division (and their offspring New Order), Echo & The Bunnymen, Depeche Mode, Nick Cave and mid-80s Aussies, The Church, all because singer Tom Smith sings in a baritone like Ian McCulloch, and bassist Russell Leetch plays with a bit of a thud. And there’s more – basically choose your reference, from The Killers to Kings of Leon - all queing up to be included in tired old comments about wannabe stadium rock giants.

Clearly Editors have thick skins, as they have ploughed on regardless. Their most recent album, The Weight Of Your Love - released last year - did offer a somewhat lighter fare than its predecessors, but with Monday's set opening with the pounding bass lines of Sugar from that album, from the outset it was clear that they were not about to go soft on their live audiences.

© 2014 Simon Poulter

This was a full-on lavishment of energy and relentlessness, the band bathed, for much of the night in the anonymity of backlit silhouetting - frequently rendering them like the ultimate close encounter between Richard Dreyfuss and the aliens.

Tracks from The Weight Of Your Love were sprinkled through the evening: the jiggable  Formaldehyde amped up to epic proportions, the plaintive Honesty and Nothing - included in the encore - given a raw energy not present on the album versions.

Noticeably, though, there was a heavy presence from The Back Room, their delightfully gloomy 2005 breakout album, with Someone Says and Munich appearing as early as the second and third song of the set, Smith hitching his guitar into its trademark, Nick Heywood-style armpit position, while Justin Lockey to his right clanging away with great gothic soundscapes on his low-hanging (and I mean Peter Hook low) Telecaster. Lights and Bullets later formed another back-to-back brace from The Back Room, their individual darkness made more absorbing by the breathless bombast of their live performance.

© 2014 Simon Poulter
If there was one niggle I could throw at Editors on Monday night it's that it took until the very last song - the radio hit Papillon from In This Light And On This Evening - before those who'd been sitting were on their feet and showing more vigorous signs of movement, beyond the obligatory clapalongs and air punching that had punctuated the night so far.

That, though, might suggest at an evening lacking animation. Anything but. Editors are a brilliant live act. True, this wasn't never going to be an epic, and Smith is not exactly Springsteen when it comes to audience orchestration. But there was nothing, I heard or saw that provided any reason for the negativity Editors have endured via the pages of certain magazines.

There have, though, been many times over the years - including when I was doing it for a living - that I've questioned the balance of live music reviews. Surely, a band that manages to get a crowd moving, nodding, foot-tapping or any one of a number of other means of showing engagement, must have achieved something.

And while, yes, their sound can be called derivative (and show me anyone since Elvis Presley who isn't), Editors engaged the tightly packed La Cigale crowd with a scything vigor that will always be welcome if you go out on a school night - even if it is St. Patrick's - looking for some proper rock and roll.

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