Or maybe the attentive audience is just glad the Park have started with an old favourite. Their latest album, Quicken the Heart, has received pretty average reviews – and that must hurt a band that set such a high standard with previous records.
Perhaps they feel they have something to prove, because there’s certainly no holding back tonight. Smith is all over the stage – although he sounds characteristically nervous when he stops to speak, the heartfelt lyrics, crazy dancing, higher-than-you-thought-possible jumps and trademark bowler hat all tell their own story.
And yes: they sound good. Performed live, some of the new material has masses of extra depth, although there’s still a distinct lack of the angular guitars, punchy chords and catchy hooks you expect from these northern indie-rockers.
It’s occasionally tricky to make out the vocals over the thumping bass too, even when Smith produces a megaphone from somewhere. But despite missing out on some of the lyrical subtleties, this big crowd gets what it wants from the five-piece. The set includes plenty of old favourites, keeping even the most casual fans happy.
In fact, there’s probably more chance of the Brixton Academy ditching Carlsberg in favour of a decent beer than of anyone getting bored at this gig.
There’s no danger of complacency either. Smith thanks everyone for turning up – at length – making clear that this rather special venue is a special place for the band too. And of course they play Roller Disco Dreams, their “song about Brixton”.
As they close out a triumphant evening with a mass singalong to Apply Some Pressure, it’s hard to imagine Quicken the Heart as anything but a blip on Maximo Park’s ascent to true greatness. In fact, after selling out two nights at Brixton, they might need to look for a bigger venue next time they come to London.
By John McGarvey