@ Leeds University

Getting the opening slot on the MTV2 Tour is a mixed blessing. There’s a capacity crowd for the hairy antics of Wolfmother but at just gone seven o’clock the place is pretty empty, filling only towards the end of their set.

That doesn’t stop the band from working furious and frantic to win over the new arrivals. Sweat drips and the lead singer is a dervish. The busy whirlingness reminds me of The Brakes but the set isn’t half as varied. Orlando Weeks, on vocals, appears to have gone all Tigger and is made out of springs as he does a credible impersonation of a dying fly. He possesses the cute girly enthusiasm of a small boy as he leaps about the stage. Rupert, on bass, in contrast, is cool and plays little tunes without the four-note low boom some bands offer. One guitar chops and whirls in the gloom of the side-stage while the other grins and shares jokes with the singer. The Maccabees give at least the impression of enjoying each other’s company and are worked into a trance of action. The frontman jerks, vibrates and reels, sometimes with his back to the crowd. “You’ve got us and Wolfmother – cover all the bases”, he comments, alluding to the large number of denim clad ‘classic rock’ fans in the crowd.

There is an underlying sense of sad romanticism to the lyrics but I can’t quite make them out – maybe on disc I will. The sound is choppy and guitars function mostly as a second drum kit. The structure of the pieces, some admirably short, is stop / start, fast / slow and is carefully arranged – there’s a lot of concentrating and listening going on here. It makes the twenty-five minutes feel very packed and generates applause at the end – not that common when you are fourth on the bill. The Maccabbees have the advantage of being accessible, the flip side of which is, unfortunately, that they really aren’t that different to a number of current bands and don’t yet have the depth to stand out that they’ll need to make any headway. If they can put as much energy into that growth as they put into their stage set they might just crack it. For now, however, they are merely a decent appetiser to the main course.

Ross McGibbon