Editors + Fujiya & Miyagi + The Strange Death of Liberal England @ Birmingham Academy, 30th March 2010

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The date is September 10th 2009. The Dome nightclub of old has been transformed into Birmingham’s newest live music venue Birmingham Academy 1, 2, and 3. On that first opening night a local band known as the Editors were given the honorable task of cutting the ribbon so to speak.

Fast-forward six months. Editors return to play the last show of the recent UK tour before heading off to do a whistle stop tour of Mainland Europe. On this opening night the set they played consisted mostly of their new electronic sound that fell upon mostly virgin ears. The apathy shown towards their change in direction seems to have now subsided as audiences are getting to grips with move from guitars and onto keyboards.

Having to wait in the queue outside whilst some inconsiderate soul tries to unsuccessfully blag their way in means myself and a significant number of others miss opening support The Strange Death Of Liberal England.

The Strange Death Of Liberal England by Karen Strunks Jujiya Miyage by Karen Strunks

Next up is trio Fujiya & Miyagi. The opening repeating lyrics “Vanilla, Strawberry, Knickerbocker Glory” signal their arrival. Being honest I’m left feeling a touch cold towards them. My first thoughts were that they sounded mundane, looked bored on stage and judging by the limited audience reaction some of those present might agree. Place yourself in a busy pub with 3,000 other people chattering away and imagine there’s a band playing in the corner. Fujiya & Miyagi may have been the visual focal point but sadly they weren’t the energetic focus that supports should be. As the set continued I started pulling out a whole host of musical influences; a little bit of ‘Bow Wow Wow’, a smidgeon of ‘Jesus And Mary Chain” some INXS and even psychedelic keyboard riffs reminiscent of the ‘Doors’. But, as I’m sat writing up this very review having read their MySpace blurb and listening again to their music it all falls into place and makes perfect sense. Live, they did nothing for me but recorded I’m more than happy to continue listening.

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At this point I could easily write two very different reviews of Editors both contradicting each other immensely. Both reviews would be similar when writing about the sound, the look of the band, the energy. Where the reviews would likely contradict was the effect they had on me emotionally and the effect on my senses. When I go to gigs I want all five of my senses to be stimulated. Obviously I want to hear the music, I want to feel an atmosphere, the humidity of a crowd moving. Most importantly I want to see the sights. I try to take in the band, the lights, and the audience. From my vantage point just to the right of the stage I thought I was perfectly positioned to take all this in. How wrong was I!

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Editors come on stage dressed impeccably in black suits resembling a quartet of Reservoir Dog musicians. With no audience interaction they head straight into ‘In This Light And on This Evening’. It’s a perfect song to start with as it gradually builds and grows. As an audience member there’s not a lot you can do but stand, watch, listen and marvel at Tom Smiths marmite voice – you either love it or hate it. Then when the break kicks in all hell breaks loose. Tom jumps up from his stall and glides around the stage feeling the music with arms out stretched. If you didn’t know any better (I don’t, but I’ve a close friend who does) you would think this was all part of an overly orchestrated stage show, Tom appears almost animated in his movements. I genuinely want to believe Tom puts all of his heart into the show and not because it’s what the crowd expect. The dry ice fog illuminated by multi colour spotlights and strobes resembles the scene from ‘Close Encounters’ when the mother ship finally lands.

The songs they play are a mixture of mostly new material and older less electronic based tracks. It’s the older tracks that draw the biggest crowd response. ‘An End Has A Start’ has all of the dance floor moving. ‘Racing Rats’ drew the loudest cheer and even the balcony crowd upstanding and dancing. Up until ‘Racing Rats’ I’d not really decided what I thought of the gig so far. The quality of their playing was amazing, I couldn’t fault it one bit. The energy on stage was intoxicating and yet there remained a small part of me that was yet to connect. I’m happy to listen to all three of their albums whenever the mood suits but I didn’t have that burning desire to come and see Editors again. ‘Racing Rats’ changed that opinion. Finally I felt that connection I long for.

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Then it happened… A friend came back from powdering her nose with a look of disappointment on her face. A face that looked as though she’d missed Christmas. At her suggestion we moved to the back of the dance floor where I was simply blown away. The limited lighting we could see from our previous vantage point gave way to a full view of the stage and all the lighting effects and video screens. No longer was I just focusing on what the band was playing I was now taking in the entire show.
This was most effective during ‘Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors’. The sadness of the lyrics coupled with the haunting derelict hospital corridor video projections draw an emotion from my cold stone heart. Now this was something I’d put my own money toward and pay to see. The standing ovation provided by the audience fully deserved and didn’t relent until Tom re-emerges after a short encore break.

Tom Plays a solo piano rendition of new song ‘No Sound But The Wind’ before the rest of the band come back to play more crowd favourites. ‘Bricks and Mortar’ and ‘Papillon’ both look and sound incredible. Finally finishing with ‘Fingers In The Factories’.

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Just as I’m leaving the venue I bump into an exceptionally sweaty denim clad man reminding me of Meat Loaf and can’t help but wonder where this man was during the show. Was he near the front in the maelstrom of the crowd or positioned by himself in his own private mosh pit. Regardless, the look on his face suggested he had the best time.

Tonight I learned a very valuable lesson when going to gigs and it’s highlighted a major shortcoming of the new Academy venue. Had I have remained in what I thought was a good vantage point I’d have missed the most spectacular element of the show, would have wrote about what I saw from that viewpoint and probably have been quite negative. As luck would have it, the disappointed face of a friend gave me the opportunity to witness the show exactly as it should be seen and left me wanting more and more.

Set List
In this Light and On This Evening
An End has a Start
You Don’t Know Love
A Life as a Ghost
Eat Raw Meat = Blood Drool
Escape the Nest
Last Day
The Big Exit
The Racing Rats
Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors
No Sound but the Wind
Bricks and Mortar
Fingers In The Factories

Reviewer – Lee Hathaway
Photographer – Karen Strunks

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