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Paul Smith @ Deaf Institute Manchester 2nd December 2010


The start of 2006 saw Arctic Monkeys ignite their rocket launchers, setting their sights on the stratosphere and creating the biggest media buzz since Justin Timberlake got Janet Jackson’s right titty out during the 2004 superbowl. Ha! That was funny!

They didn’t have an album out at the start of that year yet tickets to see them play as part of the NME awards Tour in Manchester were being exchanged for well over £150 (nearly 10 times face value). A dude I went to school with actually bought one! Sucker! He knows who he is…. The funny thing is that Arctic Monkeys weren’t even headlining that year. Maximo Park (sorry I can’t do that weird two dots over the “i”) were topping the bill.  Randomly after Arctic Monkeys finished their set about a third of the Manchester Academy audience evacuated. I have never seen such an exodus.

The truly tragic thing, for those that left, is that Maximo Park KICKED ASS!! They were far and a way the best act on that night. I think Arctic Monkeys came third in my opinion, beaten by “We Are Scientists”. Its true, Arctics have better songs than the Scientists, but the Arctic Monkeys were such miserable basterds. Who would have known that the same rocket ship that could fly you to the stratosphere could also take you to the heights of wankership??

Maximo Park were riding high on the awesomeness that is their debut album “A Certain Trigger” and whipped the remaining crowd into a frenzy. It was actually really refreshing to have more space to run riot in. The frenzy whipping was in the main part due to the Maximo’s lead singer Paul Smith, who proved that you can more than rock out with your bowler hat out!

Between then and now, I have to admit that Maximo Park have slipped off my radar, through no fault of their own. In that four and a half years, they have come out with two more albums and both to critical acclaim. I came as a more than a pleasant surprise when was sent a preview copy of Paul Smiths debut solo album, “Margins” and asked to review him in Manchester at “The Deaf Institute”.  

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Tonight we see Paul in a far more subdued setting and manner the one that had him shattering windowpanes with the refrain from Maximo Park’s ultra hit “Graffiti” well over four years ago. Still donning a hat and a fetching pair of hi-top brown leather brogues. Loving it.

“When I started writing this song,” he says with a childlike smile on face “I thought is was going to be a grunge classic!” We see why he was laughing to himself as he steps into one of the albums slowest songs, “Alone, I Would Dropped.”

Paul and the crowd are clearly enjoying themselves as he pulls out a few more of the tunes from the album and banters with the Mancunians. “I never thought I’d be playing in a room surrounded by cockatoos!” he laughs commenting on the unique décor of The Deaf Institute. He’s not the first to and he certainly won’t be the last to talk about them. “Strange Friction” follows the wannabe grunge classic and is the tune that is most reminiscent of Maximo’s earlier catalogue.

“The Heat” strips back the sound to an acoustic guitar, light drums, maracas and a percussive egg and sees Paul at his most vulnerable. Even his boots and hat can’t protect him. The audience are smitten into silence and this proves to be the highlight of the night.

It’s great to see Paul Smith and company still working the crowd in a completely different way to early Maximo Park days. The recent material isn’t a game changer but it’s a welcome respite from the gubbins that Simon Cowell will be forcing us to listen to for the rest of our lives…K*