the maccabees

No­body splits up while they’re still friends and at the top of their game. But The Maccabees did. Chris Catch­pole joins the dis­traught throng at their farewell shows at Alexan­dra Palace to cap­ture the mo­ment.


Things get very emo­tional when Q joins the London quin­tet at their farewell shows in Alexan­dra Palace.

Quit while you’re ahead, goes the old adage. It’s good ad­vice, no doubt, and par­tic­u­larly so for mu­si­cians on the wane, but who does it? The Jam and The Bea­tles were the big­gest groups of their time when they split, but that’s about it. Or rather it was un­til The Maccabees an­nounced last Au­gust that they were call­ing it a day af­ter 14 years. “Why now?” cried their fans. Why split when they’d just cracked it? Af­ter all, it was only in 2015 that their fourth al­bum, Marks To Prove It, had scored their first Num­ber 1. They’d won an Ivor Novello and been nom­i­nated for a Mer­cury Prize. In July last year, they’d head­lined their first fes­ti­val, Lat­i­tude. Wasn’t this the point where all those years of graft and slog, of sleep­ing in tran­sit vans and play­ing bot­tom of the bill to half-empty rooms fi­nally paid off ? When the first of three farewell shows an­nounced at London’s Alexan­dra Palace sold out in lit­tle over 15 min­utes it was clear the bub­ble wasn’t about to burst. “When they told me I was, like, ‘Why would you do that? You’ve reached the pin­na­cle that most bands spend their en­tire ca­reers try­ing to get to and you’re go­ing to stop now?’” re­calls Jim Chan­cel­lor, their la­bel boss at Fic­tion. “I was sort of flum­moxed, but then you think, ‘Well, maybe it’s ex­actly the right thing to do.’ Just be­cause ev­ery­one else car­ries on doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. They said, ‘We’ve cre­ated this won­der­ful thing and we don’t want to spoil it.’” There were clues though, if you looked hard enough. Re­leased in 2015, the film Ele­phant Days was a love letter to the band’s adopted South London base of Ele­phant And Cas­tle. De­tail­ing the rapidly chang­ing na­ture of the neigh­bour­hood, it was in­ter­spersed with footage of the pro­tracted two-year pe­riod spent try­ing to make their fourth al­bum. It might have pro­duced the in­tensely demo­cratic group’s best work, but from the footage of ex­as­per­at­ing record­ing ses­sions it didn’t look like much fun. “I know they were find­ing it quite hard to make the records – harder and harder. Some bands thrive on that and some don’t,” re­flects Chan­cel­lor. “[ Marks To Prove It] was a strug­gle for them. They wanted to go out as friends rather than fall out over mak­ing another record, I think. Another very right­eous, hon­ourable thing. It’s a bit like a prize fighter, he gets that one chance to knock the num­ber one out and be­come the world cham­pion and he does it and says, ‘I quit’. This feels like what a lot of bands should

It was joy­ous to be on­stage with them

do – get to the point where you’re at the height of your pow­ers and then go, ‘OK, we don’t want to sully that, we want to move on.’”

Thurs­day, 29 June

Fol­low­ing a small char­ity warm-up show and two nights at Manch­ester Apollo, the first wave of 10,000 fans de­scend upon Alexan­dra Palace, dec­i­mat­ing the mer­chan­dise stand for any form of me­mento. Launch­ing into an ex­plo­sive Wall Of Arms, The Maccabees cer­tainly don’t look or sound like a band who are run­ning out of steam. Guitarist Felix White zig-zags around the stage, beam­ing at the crowd, clap­ping and sing­ing along as if their num­ber one fan had won a com­pe­ti­tion to be on­stage for the whole gig. Front­man Or­lando Weeks, nor­mally a bash­ful on­stage pres­ence, waves his hands over the au­di­ence, con­duct­ing the sea of arms in the air and throws can-you-be­lieve-it grins over his shoul­der to his band­mates.

Four songs in, the first men­tion from the group that these will be their fi­nal shows is met with a col­lec­tive cry of dis­plea­sure. “We’re not averse to a bit of boo­ing,” smiles Weeks, “so if you want to boo, get it all out now.” It turns out they want to boo. “Now that’s done,” chips in White, “what we want to do is make this the most eu­phoric cel­e­bra­tion ever.” It’s rare that a band ac­tu­ally give them­selves and their fans an op­por­tu­nity like this to say good­bye and thank you to one another and the level of love and teary-eyed de­vo­tion it’s brought out in the au­di­to­rium is star­tling. I first saw The Maccabees play the back room of a Brighton pub in 2004 and

This feels like what a lot of bands should do – get to the point where you’re at the height of your pow­ers and then go, OK, we don’t want to sully that, we want to move on.’” Jim Chan­cel­lor, Fic­tion Records

“Don’t leave us!”: fans ar­rive to bid adieu and pos­si­bly shed a tear or two.

At­tack of the killer ’Bees: (from left) Or­lando Weeks, Hugo White and Ru­pert Jarvis, Alexan­dra Palace, 2017; ( far left) the band’s farewell setlist.

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