After ‘going missing’ from his day job with Maximo Park, Paul Smith has once again been concentrating on a solo album. And it’s his sophomore effort we get to hear almost in its entirety tonight. ‘We’ being a very select few as the attendance was poor. But that’s the only thing that was poor…
Date: September 1, 2015
Venue: Rescue Rooms
Whenever the lead singer of a band goes solo there’s always the nagging wonder whether they’re about to unleash their vanity project upon us; that avant-jazz opus they’ve been secretly tinkering with on an uninhabited island in the Outer Hebrides.
But rest easy, because Paul Smith of Maximo Park is no self-indulgent prog-electro bore like, say, Thom Yorke. In fact, close your eyes, and on stage could be Maximo Park.
Returning five years after his first solo record, Contradictions is, thankfully, an extension of his north-east wit and charm rather than an experimental diversion.
“Come closer if you feel confident”, Smith asks his small audience, still donning his stylish, trademark trilby, before launching into The Deep End, which rumbles by as chiming guitars swirl around his thick Geordie accent.
Coney Island (4th July) does exactly as Smith says it will: it starts funky before straightening out, while I Should Never Know is a promiscuous wink to a salacious encounter.
The Intimations, his band, comprising of a female bassist and males on lead guitar and drums, provide a tight spine for Smith’s sincere, intelligent and learned lyrics.
His in-between song anecdotes to this intimate audience maybe hit and miss (Middlesbrough FC legend Bernie Slaven anyone? Just me then), but the music is pure hit.
Before North Atlantic Drift, from his 2010 album Margins, lead guitarist Paul Rafferty is enlisted into the pantheon of great lead guitarists such as May, Clapton, Knopfler and Jimmy Nail. The latter’s inclusion demonstrates the tone of the evening perfectly; witty and jovial.
He ends with an unexpected Maximo Park song, I Havn’t Seen Her in Ages, but before that, set highlight Break Me Down begins, but not before he waits for a female fan to return from the ladies’ at her fella’s request. It’s been that kind of gig. Intimate, deeply personal and brilliant.