‘Let’s get nostalgic for a moment’, Tom Smith muttered, before breaking into a tirade of ‘Lights’, ‘Blood’, ‘Munich’ and ‘An End Has A Start’.
But if Editors proved one thing in their siege of the 1250-strong Clapham Grand: it’s that they are no longer defined by nostalgia. And that their current iteration –– one that climbed out of the scrapheap of NME mid-noughties indie –– represents the tenacity and triumph of one of Britain’s most overlooked acts.
Closing a string of intimate club shows to promote of their sixth LP, Violence, Editors set something of a mission statement on a wintery South London evening. A band, once lauded with platinum record sales and Mercury notations, seemed at ease with the small venue. There was an eeriness –– a theatrical quality of sorts –– about their arrival on stage. And opening with their latest blend of aggressive industrial-electronica indie, ‘Hallelujah (So Low)’, they seemed confident with their material, too.
As the band burnt through a diverse set (including material from their overlooked 2015 effort, In Dream), they offset new tracks with old favourites with great diplomacy. But from their early, R.E.M inspired records to more recent electronic meanderings: it became abundantly clear that frontman Tom Smith’s heart lies in his latest work. These expertly crafted, almost progressive arrangements, reflect a genuine development in his songwriting and were –– to my surprise –– the highlight of the entire evening. Albeit the pulsating synthesisers in ‘Nothingness’ to the restrained guitars of ‘Cold’, it’s clear that this band –– one that has been accused of everything from Joy Division parody to relying on a formulaic guitar sound –– have grown exponentially. And it seems the additional band members have been maximised, too. It’s worth noting that following Chris Urbanowicz’s departure in 2010, the band recruited a new guitarist and additional synth/guitar player to provide textures on their fourth, stadium-inspired outing, A Ton Of Love. If this signified ‘Editors 2.0’, then their current iteration; the polished, electronic and aggressive formation of that line-up, is the true culmination of that journey. And a far-cry from The Back Room.
But for all their growth, Editors were not afraid to indulge the past, either. Segway-ing old into new, including a rather impressive acoustic encore of ‘Smokers Outside The Hospital Door’ into ‘The Racing Rats’, their 21 song setlist felt a diverse and impressive as their career. And the sheer abundance of great songs became a little jarring. To the extent there was audible cheers amongst the crowd, including some self-confesed surprise at simply how many songs they’ve penned over the years. It’s an eclectic, but wholly consistent, back catalogue. And one that deserves more credit.
No doubt, Editors represent an anomaly in British indie. From constant Interpol comparisons to a relative abandonment by the UK press after their risqué third record (a record that, curiously, cemented their place as a festival headliners across Europe); they’re one of the few acts to survive the purge of that era. And one of the even fewer to come back stronger. Whilst they’ve seemingly alienated the casual radio fanbase with subsequent, more abstract, releases; their resolve has never been more contagious. In fact, this could not be better encapsulated than by the minor technical difficulties experienced during the set. Smith’s microphone cut out during the eponymous ‘Violence’; forcing the band to restart. But they returned, fired-up and stronger than ever. And just as they recharged and recalibrated –– so has their career –– which is more confident, bombastic and melodic than ever.
If anything, Editors proved that they are much more than their past. Their earliest records soundtracked a wonderful time-and-place and remain vital to so many. But they still have so much more to give. They are full of momentum, energy and tactful melodies. And for all their divisive ‘new directions’, they remain objectively one of the greatest live acts in Britain today. An act that I implore you to see if you get the chance.