It could be due to support from the ever-grandiose British Sea Power – whose flagrant eccentricity has never aligned itself with a particular scene – that tonight’s crowd is distinctly (or should that be indistinctly?) pan-generational. And as the Brightonians’ theatrics draw to a close – indeed, with an exeunt stage right, pursued by a giant bear (don’t ask) – nobody disperses or goes home for cocoa. We have at least three generations of music lovers here for Editors – a band whose own repertoire is becoming somewhat blurred by a touch of musical decade-hopping, not least in the ’80s-bound synth-laden atmospherics of their latest offering.
Showcasing most of the material from obesity-conscious new album The Weight Of Your Love, the Dark Ones take ominously to the stage to the strains of aptly named The Weight, its flabby bassline like a flabby waistline that segues into the sonic liposuction of Sugar, a track which feasts on Depeche Mode but is pretty anorexic.
Once again employing the services of producer Flood, whose seminal work on Da Mode’s Violator remains one the greatest producer-artist collaborations ever, you can see what Editors are striving for. On the evidence of their latest work, however, it all comes across as somewhat contrived – a safe-sex version of the Mode’s lascivious deviancy. ‘Condomnation’, anyone?
With their sights now perhaps firmly set on filling stadiums into their old age, and thus filling their sound with as much bluster as possible, it seems the fundamental essence of what got Editors here in the first place is getting lost somewhere. Though singer Tom Smith remains tight-lipped about what prompted the departure of guitarist Chris Urbanowicz, the obvious is pretty much jumping up and down behind him and waving a starving Les Paul in the air.
When the older tracks kick in with Smokers… and Bones, the place comes alight, not only with the sound but the retina-singeing lightshow behind them, which tend to leave the capillaries in your eyes polka-dotted for a week after. Pretty apt, really, as tonight we only really get flashes of a true Editors performance. Is it coincidence that most of those flashes are older tracks, which explode with almost petulant vigour from the encroaching newer songs?
A case in point: preceding single A Ton Of Love is actually quite weightless, though not in an airy, ethereal way; this is forged (in both senses of the word) from the impossible chemical formula of Joy Division transfusing Desire-era U2 into their bloodstream – without saving any lives whatsoever. And if that last sentence sounds contrived, well that’s because there seems to be some serious contrivance afoot here, not least in the fact new guitarist Justin Lockey seems to be mimicking the left-foot-dragging stance of his predecessor – literally stepping into Urbanowicz’s shoes… but somehow not tying the shoelaces correctly.
Editors seem to be setting their stall out for a complete musical shift. It’s a laudable measure to take, and one not enough bands are brave enough to make, but these measures should not be at the expense of the music that preceded it (irritatingly, they omit two of their best tracks tonight: Camera and Fingers In The Factories). And while there seems to be something forced (hurried?) about the direction they’re taking, perhaps a step back and a bit of perspective is all that’s needed.
And towards the end of the set we find it. With An End Has A Start and a massive, roof-raising rendition of The Racing Rats, the older tracks flaunt their majesty with almost monochromatic simplicity, while the dubiously titled Honesty, which seems anything but, is garishly Queen-like, sandwiching some clap-along shenanigans with Smith’s over-earnest vocal marmalade.
When it does work, during encore newbie Nothing and old fave Papillion, you sense there might be some scope for future promise. But Editors, as their moniker ought to tell them, need to know where to enhance and where to cut – a process only marred by haste – and to never lose sight of where they came from.
After all, life is lived forwards; it can only be seen backwards.
*An edited version of this article is published in Record Collector magazine