Editors + Swim Deep + Victories at Sea @ HMV Institute, Birmingham – 27th June 2012


Review by Jack Arkell

After an absence of a couple of years, Editors returned to the Midlands for two homecoming dates at Birmingham’s HMV Institute, bringing with them a solid line-up of fledgling Second City bands.

Tonight, the second date of the two, Swim Deep open the bill with a well-judged set, their high quality surf-rock pleasing those who were early enough to witness it. The four-piece offer their own brand of grungey escapism with every listen, and deserve to be heard by a larger crowd. Still, a surprisingly accomplished performance kicks off the evening brightly, proving that the band deserves their place on most critics’ start of year ‘Bands to Watch’ lists.

Victories at Sea are more than qualified to continue this momentum. Their hazy, experimental sound entices the stragglers away from the bar within the first couple of songs. Giving away 200 CDs, each with different artwork, at the end of their performance is a nice touch that endears them to the crowd, though this could easily have been achieved on musical merit alone.

And as for Editors… Tonight they are just impeccable. New tracks such as ‘The Sting’ and ‘Two Hearted Spider’ sound excellent, yet aren’t played at the expense of old favourites such as ‘Blood’ and ‘Fingers in the Factories’. Instead, the setlist combines both old and new perfectly, providing a crowd-pleasing running order.

Opening with a new track is always a bold move, yet Editors clearly aren’t the type of band to shrink away from taking a risk. ‘Sugar’ instantly gives positive signals about the band’s forthcoming LP.

It is then that frontman Tom Smith takes to his piano, initiating a rendition of ‘The Racing Rats’ which is simply mesmerising in its execution. The moment is equally matched with ‘Bullets’ from the band’s debut album ‘The Back Room’. The stirring ‘Smokers Outside the Hospital Doors’ sounds more enormous than ever.

The returning heroes continue to treat the crowd to a plethora of hits from their back catalogue, even giving ‘Fall’ a rare outing, a gesture lapped up by the die-hards in attendance.

As for the new material; tonight there are no signs that a complete departure from Editors’ existing sound have been made, despite the fact that former guitarist Chris Urbanowicz’s withdrawal from the band was apparently due to creative differences. If anything, the synth sounds of last record ‘In This Light and on This Evening’ have been watered down slightly, in place of more atmospheric, shoegazing tones, and, in the case of ‘Nothing’, a mandolin.

A five song encore is ushered in by Smith’s solo piece, ‘No Sound But the Wind.’ It is the one time in the entire performance that you don’t catch his constant gyrating, along with the rest of his unorthodox mannerisms. Live staple ‘Munich’, once the band’s main weapon, now just one of many in an ever-increasing arsenal, is always a sure-fire way to enhance audience activity, but the crowd reaction of the night is reserved for closing number ‘Papillon’.

Words can’t accurately portray the crowd’s joy and relief that Editors are back. On record they are expansive, dexterous and contagious. In the live environment, Editors are still simply a tour de force.