The Rules That We Break: Editors @ Barba Negra

In the run up to this Monday’s Editors show I was harbouring one of those ‘important’ existential concerns that envelop me every now and then with basically no sense or clear outcome either to myself, or the wholeness of being in general: I have written so many ecstatic reviews of the Editors, both of club gigs and Sziget shows, that, no matter what happens, I will just repeat myself and sound ecstatic and gooey in a way which is cool when you’re fifteen and loving a band equals a definition of yourself, but might be perceived as sloppy judgement when you’re more than double that.

But we all know that fears are oft unfounded (danger does lurk at every step, mind you, but we’re not particularly good at guessing the exact way it will manifest itself), and mine were laid to rest midway through the opening song, Hallelujah (So Low) from this year’s album, Violence. A fact that I had been avoiding tactfully, like a cat circling around that type of supermarket cat food which compares negatively to her favourite, quickly came to the forefront: I don’t like this album all that much. More precisely, I do like it, in the okay I might as well play this thing while I’m sorting bills way, but I don’t love it, I don’t listen to it religiously, I don’t stop dead in my steps at the green light, thinking it’s red, because I am transfigured and mouthing the words to No Harm and everyone correctly assumes I am a bit touched in the head.

There are some songs I love more (Counting Spooks or Magazine, interestingly a leftover from previous recording sessions) but overall there is something unsettling in the album, or perhaps something which makes one unsettled, and that has been the professed intention of the band, as the very name of the record, Violence, implies. It’s just as such it somehow feels both more cerebral and more physical (hinted to by the cover, the artwork brilliant as always) than previous records, especially 2015’s In Dream, somewhat shunned by critics but my personal favourite. In Dream was overflowing with raw emotion, songs like Life is a Fear or All The Kings, now missing from a set naturally built around the latest release could shatter you and build you back again. There were very few, if any, bands that could do that and it helped that Editors were somehow left out of the hype of noughties indie acts which made it really big.

Their insistent touring on the continent has however made them more popular than in the UK, a fact often hinted to by the British press in interviews as some kind of shortcoming, as if you would only be really big if you were big in the UK. They are big in Hungary though, so much so that the gig, organized by A38’s crew was moved from Akvárium to Barba Negra in March, to allow it to sell out once more. This made it lose some of the intimacy of their previous Hungarian outings (while they played Barba Negra back in 2015 as well, the attendance was considerably smaller), with too many people being taken aback by lesser known tracks and with the band tweaking their approach to satisfy this increased hunger. Which is normal, and understandable and they looked like perhaps they personally enjoyed this response more, even preparing lots of printed setlist for the roadies to give out to the groupies. The groupies were however pining for that one setlist stuck to the floor onto which Tom Smith might or might not have sweated profusely- he’s always thermically challenged by passion, but this time the packed Barba Negra was suffocating even by general club standards.

So the passion, it was there (report on THE hands too: they are doing great, still living a life of their own), but it never quite amounted to catharsis. More often than not, songs, new or old, got me thinking, and sometimes even thinking unhappy or unpleasant thoughts, and one of the conclusions was that sometimes you need to open up to the unsettling and the unpleasant, and if that’s what the Editors meant to do (interviews about the record hint in that direction), then they’ve actually done a great job. And they also surprised me, and given me another type of Editors concert, the musing about life type of Editors concert. Was this the concert I wanted? No. Was this the concert I needed? Something tells me very much yes.

I had also started the evening by complaining that this year’s opening act, October Drift, were not quite as up my alley as Public Service Broadcasting had been last time around, and the only apparent reason I see for the choice is that lead singer Kiran Roy sounds like Tom Smith (who of course sounds like Paul Banks sounding like Ian Curtis). And this brotherhood of tantalizingly gloomy men is wonderful, but perhaps not enough to propel a band forwards.

In the end, however, if not necessarily winning me over, October Drift did exhibit a certain charming youthful enthusiasm, the spark that is only there temporarily when you’re much better at posturing with your instrument than playing it and that will hopefully evolve into something more balanced and polished as the years go by. Finally, since there’s no particular shoe related information I can convey (the moment Tom Smith switches to wearing fuchsia sneakers will be a definite sign of The End), I will only mention that Kiran played in what must have been his favourite jeans, as the shape of a phone was superbly etched onto his thigh and at one point walked over to sing at the back of the room, which prompted an interesting moment in which people needed to choose between turning their backs to the stage to watch the singer, or following the ‘leftover’ band on stage. What your choice conveyed about you stays open to interpretation.

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