Maximo Park, ULU, London

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The Independent Culture

For these Tynesiders, a first headlining tour brings new experiences - not just fresh towels on stage, but their first crowd-surfers. The singer, Paul Smith, coped admirably, but had to ask his young audience to desist for the final song "just to give security a break".

For these Tynesiders, a first headlining tour brings new experiences - not just fresh towels on stage, but their first crowd-surfers. The singer, Paul Smith, coped admirably, but had to ask his young audience to desist for the final song "just to give security a break".

Maximo Park have risen rapidly to the upper reaches of the league of post-Franz Ferdinand guitar bands. This was the weekend they'd enjoy another Top 20 spot with their third single, "Graffiti", allowing the group to eclipse their Sunderland neighbours The Futureheads and The Golden Virgins.

This trio are leading what some see as a North-east renaissance. Indeed, Maximo share much with The Futureheads, the four-piece that covered Kate Bush's "Hounds of Love" - spiky, untreated guitars, loyalty to their distinctive, clipped accent and support from the producer Paul Epworth.

Yet, in the space of three singles, the newcomers have shown more warmth than The Futureheads, thanks to Smith's Morrissey-style vignettes of grey Northern vistas and relationships just as bleak. As the five-piece took the stage, he imposed himself as the band's focal point. His Franz flick had mutated into an eccentric combover, which he patted into place throughout the set. In badge-adorned red pullover, shirt and tie, Smith looked disturbingly like a young Alan Partridge, albeit an angry one.

Against a backdrop of staccato guitars and repetitive synth notes, Smith gripped his mic-stand with the desperation of Ian Curtis, though there was some showboating as he treated us to scissor kicks for the vigorous chords. Those came from the guitarist Duncan Lloyd, who's studied The Smiths for his adoption of Johnny Marr's mix of potency and delicacy on "Postcard of a Painting". On the singer's left, meanwhile, Lukas Wooller left his keyboards to stalk the stage and mirror Smith's gestures. In contrast, Tom English sat straight and punched out his machine-gun rhythms in the manner of The Jam's Rick Buckler.

The pace showed that the band have plenty of gas for their forthcoming debut album, A Certain Trigger. The plaintive "Going Missing", with another insistent chorus, could be a bigger hit even than the Teardrop Explodes bombast of "Graffiti", while "A19" brought the keyboards to the fore in a propulsive Kraftwerk pulse.

Smith's direct lyrics hit home, though only the occasional line stays in the mind. Most memorably, he conjured up his home city's brutal skyline with "where cranes collect the sky". Otherwise, his lack of artifice at times left him with a pedestrian style that suggested his frustrations but failed to elicit much sympathy.

For "Once, a Glimpse", Smith pretended to read from a red book, which he claimed contained all his scribblings. He'd lost it in a club a week earlier and had pleaded online for its return. His literary pose was just about plausible, but Maximo Park haven't quite convinced us yet.

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