Express & Star

Editors hometown show at Arena Birmingham eventually sparks into life - review

As the chorus goes from their own hit - "All sparks will burn out."

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Editors perform at Arena Birmingham Photo: Leigh Sanders

And for the first chunk of this hometown show from Editors - they're Staffordshire University/Birmingham alumni depending on which story you read - it almost felt like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

For the record, this writer is a big champion of Editors. Ever since seeing them smashing through the guitar-heavy hits from The Back Room in 2005 they always put on a show. But with a hugely depleted crowd, with a reduced capacity Arena Birmingham still not getting anywhere near full, it felt a bit...flat.

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The Black Gold tour was promoting their greatest hits record of the same name released in October. So what better way than to start by juggling big tunes from their first two albums - An End Has A Start, Bullets, Bones and Escape The Nest.

At this point the set felt a little strained, but that wasn't the band's fault - although the sound system was clearly geared up for the funkier hits coming later. The smaller crowd didn't seem too energetic. You could count the raised arms and bouncing people down the front on your fingers, honestly. The cold atmosphere outside had filtered in. And this despite support act Whispering Sons having done a decent job of warming them up with their deep, post-punk walls of sound.

It wasn't hampering the ever-energetic frontman Tom Smith by the way, nor drummer Ed Lay, who really seemed to be enjoying back home.

Yet it wasn't until Sugar appeared six songs in that people began to remember where they were, joining in with the big "woah-oh-oh" vocal interludes.

Another issue bands like Editors have is where their output has varied so much over their career. They will have their hardcore backers who love everything they do. But more casual listeners might love the early guitar killers, or their dalliances in electro starting with 2009's In This Light And On This Evening. Or they might adore the piano-led ballads of The Weight Of Your Love and In Dream. So in a live setting, somebody might have their phone out texting for a song that makes you emotional, and then be screaming along to and filming an obscure album track 10 minutes later you were never sure about.

This night, the third section of the set filled with the piano hits killed somewhat the energy built up by the electronic whoppers in Act Two such as Violence, Frankenstein and their eternally epic Papillon. Although, coming earlier on the night, we didn't get to witness the brilliant, extended, stomping romp they make this song for its encore inclusions.

Then the final act kicked in, and suddenly we had an atmosphere on our hands. The crowd seemed to ignite halfway through A Ton of Love for a big karaoke sesh, and even the seated revellers began to get up and bop around for the big guitars of Formaldehyde and the ferociously dark epilogue to Eat Raw Meat = Blood Drool. A debut album triple of All Sparks, Blood and Fingers In The Factories went down well after Smith roused the crowd by declaring "Right, let's play some really old stuff."

And although the choice of starting the encore with Distance was a bit strange, The Racing Rats and Munich had everyone up as one at last before a sing-along for Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors ensured we ended the night on a high and that early, uneasy atmosphere around the place had dissipated.

There's still sparks burning yet.