On a dull and miserable, rainy Friday evening there was a little bit of summer still radiating from the main venue at The Cluny in the form of Maximo Park frontman, Paul Smith and his Intimations. Despite some technical difficulties to start, you could see that Smith was not fazed and was just raring to kick straight in with the music. Whilst the drummer and bassist were trying to fix the problems, Smith’s witty north eastern charm kept the crowd entertained. Paul Smith had an amazing rapport with the crowd throughout his whole set, with an anecdote for every song, many of his references recalling memories and times spent in Newcastle and the surrounding areas. Songs such as ‘Mezzanine Floor’, where he talks fondly of Newcastle and (as he put it) being in “Domestic Bliss”. I think with Smith, having grown up in the North East, and currently living here was able to relax and have a bit of northern banter that may have been lost on his southern fans. But if you were expecting him to bring his original Maximo Park-esque punchiness, think again. The Intimations have a much more relaxed, feel good vibe which differs greatly to Paul Smith’s musical alter ego.
Of course there were some fans in the crowd, perhaps who have been followers for many a year, who urged Smith to play some of his earlier hits. One fan screamed out for him to play an old song, ‘Strained Friction’, which comes from his first solo album ‘Margins’. The reaction from Smith was priceless, the excitement with which he greeted the request. This resulted in him desperately trying to remember how to play it with the crowd cheering him on as he finally reproduced the right notes in the right order.
Whilst changing over guitars between songs, he joked about a fan who he had named ‘Jesus Man’, who at a show in Stockton had fortunately noticed that Smith’s guitar wasn’t plugged in. He then went on to explain that the man in the front row of the crowd looked like Jesus and essentially saved the start of the show. Just as he was about to play ‘All The Things You’d Like To Be’ (a song about spending time down by the river with his grandfather appreciating all the mechanical architecture of the north east) he brought out Wendy Smith (Former Prefab Sprout vocalist). Smith commented that for some of the songs on his new album he considered her voice a necessity, as it was the perfect accompaniment to his own. He also gave mention to Peter Brewis, who accompanied The Intimations on piano on a few of the album’s songs.
It’s obvious from the lyrics, but also from his stage banter that Paul Smith didn’t only get inspiration from his native North East, but from travelling all over the world to; a song such as ‘People on Sunday’ where he sings about being in Berlin being one obvious example. He also went on to talk about how he has written a version completely in German, a snippet of which which he proceeded to sing to the crowd. Das war gut.
As the show comes to an end with ‘Fill In The Blanks’, Smith jokingly suggests that if the crowd wanted more music they would play quietly behind the curtain back stage. But of course they leave the stage to make a swift come back for an encore, playing a song dedicated to Smith’s girlfriend Becca, ‘While You’re In The bath’. Then to end the show the band plays one last song ‘I Haven’t Seen Her In Ages’.
Paul Smith and the Intimations definitely didn’t disappoint with a completely uplifting and fun show. Smith is a truly excellent frontman, not wrapped up in himself or his own performance, but relaxed and entirely devoted to his fans, utterly committed to giving them a great show. He delivered.
Photographer – Adam Barnsley
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