Live at St George's Hall (Bradford) on Sunday, 7th March 2010
As show time approaches and the Editors backline is prepared by their crew there is a buzzing crowd twelve deep on the barrier. The St Georges Hall and its proscenium arch backdrop gives the feeling of a dramatic play which is about to unfold in front of us. The Victorian hall built in 1851 is slowly approaching its capacity of 1872 seated and standing as show times draws nearer. The backdrop for the band has what looks like four large Victorian picture frames, which later turn out to be video screens. Despite its size the hall has a seductive character through a red orange glow of curtain fabric and misted lighting.
I see that Chris Urbanowicz is using what looks mostly Fender Bassman and Hot Rod amplifiers and a Rickenbacker guitar while bass player Russell Leech looks to be using Laney amps. There is an extensive synthesiser set-up down stage right and a piano set centre stage. A few impatient members of the audience begin to chant sporadically as roadies beaver away. Already the stage is lit with three full beam search lights pointed directly at the anticipating audience blinding them momentarily. Peering across the dress circle it's clear that the band attracts a wider demographic of fans than perhaps first imagined.
Now the stage lighting is a cool blue as the band appears through the dusk. The band are dressed in black bar the drummer Ed Lay who is in a black and white striped sailors number. Bass player Russell Leech looks strong and composed as do the whole band. They open up with the ponderous chords of their title album track 'In this Light and On This Evening.' The backline eruptions begin to simmer underneath whirling synths. Even after a few lines from lead singer Tom Smith you begin to appreciate the emotive depth he bestows on the crowd. He has their full attention playing piano.
It's an organic opening to what would turn out to be an explosive show. They power through 'Lights' and 'An End has a Start' from the band's first two albums. Then we're treated to a spotlight introduction from Tom Smith for 'You Don't Know Love' from their latest album accompanied by flickering synthesisers by Chris Urbanowicz. This is the first taste we get of the cinematic feel of the new record. Falling down the ladder we're hit with a yearning struggle running on the arpeggios of the synthesiser. The lyrics reflect this - "through the cemeteries where ghosts still play, the more you ran, love got further away". The band are now in the moment. Their concentration never wavering. The war cry "Retreat, retreat" blasts across the hall as the forth song of the night 'Bones' hits full flow. The thumping rhythm section is tight knit with Russell often turning to his opposite number and stepping on the drum rise. They share a verse together. A confidence comes across from the band. Not necessarily as overconfidence in themselves, but in each other. We approach the song's end and Tom Smith drops his guitar on the piano and tears off his jacket to then begin rolling up his sleeves. There is a sense that they're beginning to show the crowd what they can't really do.
The band owes much of its signature dark disco sound to the piercing guitar lines throughout the night. Indeed both the vocals and guitars have lots of reverb and sharp delay to give depth. The next song 'A Life as a Ghost' could easily be mistaken for a Led Zeppelin track. Such is the power and rawness of the guitar line which is teaming with pitch shifted tones that scratch to be let free. Their uniqueness comes from applying modern technology to traditional musicianship. The band at times takes on a new physique in the form of a living breathing animal, perhaps even an unpredictable monster.
The impressive stage set comes into its own now with multiple video screens showing the words 'You', 'Him' and 'Her' for the next song 'Eat Raw Meat = Blood Drowl'. The now industrial rhythm section works with effortless ease using countering off beats in repeated crescendos. New insect like sound fonts add to this mechanical construction. The vocals are now expanding into higher registers making you feel that the summit it drawing nearer. The second wave of the evening has definitely hit the beach now as the band continues the industrial theme with 'This House Is Full Of Noise'. This track is particularly interesting as the song once said to the like theme of Hollywood Film, Terminator by Tom Smith. The most obvious clue is the rhythmical signatures that use to me, what sounds like a combination of white noise and synthesised square waves. It feels epic in its scale with glistening guitar delays chiming through.
Later we have one of the few moments where Ed Lay on drums has time to breathe and gather himself. He is relentlessly charging up the band in each song working his socks off. So well has he done this that it's the first time I've noticed him during the show. Then one of the telling moments of the evening occurs. As the band refresh between tracks a lone female voice from below shouts "I Love You". It catches a mood in the audience and the band alike. Editors cannot be accused of not giving everything of themselves in live performance. But this typifies how some parts of the audience appreciate it. There is perhaps a human instinct in their music that the band draws upon and the audience seize. They have mentioned recently they're writing has been more about a sense of place rather than of music alone.
Tom is constantly swapping from guitar and piano such is the nature of the band. The textures are endlessly running through your veins. The next song 'Blood' again shows how the guitar parts often following the vocal melodies give a signature to much of the bands early material. On the back of this comes 'Escape The Nest' with its screeching guitars that wouldn't needed further amplification from the sound system. Strobe lighting and a stage rig big enough for the Pyramid at Glastonbury heighten the intensity of the song. In the last few minutes the tempo has dropped giving the rhythm section a short rest bite. A pause between songs reveals Chris Urbanowicz throwing a guitar pick at drummer Ed Lay in jest. The two used to work in a shoe shop together in Birmingham before signing full time with The Editors. The band are relaxed and are in their groove. You now begin to appreciate subconsciously how in harmony the band are with each other. At this moment video screens show lo-fi negative footage of each band member performing.
An ironic cry follows from a lone male voice in the crowd calling out "I Love You" followed by laughter and applause. The crowd are really enjoying this. Tom replies with "Seems to be a lot of love in the air tonight guys" before bursting into 'Bullets' and the lyric "You don't need this disease". It seems that the crowd really do want this disease. It's infectious and it's overpowering as Russell twists on the spot hypnotically in the red orange glow.
The final chapter is unfolding, Russell and Ed are coming to the fore with backing vocals and rallying gestures to the audience. The song 'The Big Exit' incorporates drum samples and triggers before sprinklings of guitar triads give a slight oriental feel. The explosive start to the show has bowed out to a more reflective dynamic in the penultimate phase of the evening. The cascading piano line leads off 'Racing Rats' in a sombre light before the band hit the final furlong with the anthem 'Munich'. The most impressive song of the evening is one from their second album 'Outside The Hospital Doors' where the band almost loses control such is the ferocity of the song at times.
Finally the tracks 'Bricks and Mortar' from the latest album followed by an encore of Papillon Bricks and Mortar vibrates like the chugging of a train about to leave the station. Its uplifting electronic synths and bass provide a continuous interval change locking onto the sweeping drum machine sample raising the intensity. Papillon has the audience clapping to its conclusion as the band play out the evening.
You get the impression that Editors would have played long into the night given half a chance. Such is the commitment to the songs and each other on stage to deliver an explosive set which left you gasping for breath. Perhaps Editors have begun to master the fusing together of the mechanical and the emotional? They remain dedicated to their art and the discoveries of which it brings. On stage the band give a technically accomplished performance yet with human appeal. It's beyond consciousness.
The band end on their current material but not before revisiting some of the back catalogue during the evening. Chris Urbanowicz on synths and guitar continued to impress while Tom Smith was fully committed all evening treating the audience to an accomplished, if not slightly rushed solo piece on piano at the end of the show. He was however theatrically appealing as ever and the rest of the band pushing downstage at any opportunity. Ed Lay was ferocious all evening and Russell Leech added backing vocals which would have been sorely missed.
Leaving St Georges Hall I felt fatigued. The band ran at what felt like one hundred beats per minute all evening. This gig felt like a warm up to the festival season given its high octane delivery. Although saying this, the band has a good live reputation for that precise reason. It is sometimes more effective however to drop intensity for impact. It's refreshing to see a band who are driven to dig deeply to give a moving performance and yet not become too introverted while doing so. Contrary to their name, Editors create and reveal a lot more in their musical performance then most bands I've seen. They have pushed into drawing inspiration from places and visual memories taking their third album into deeper, richer waters. Editors are half a step away from becoming absolute world beaters. But not everybody has noticed... yet.