Donning a shirt printed with "Education, not missiles," you'd think frontman of Maximo Park, Paul Smith, had some sort of a political agenda when he took the stage with his band of Newcastle post-punks at New York City's Webster Hall last night. But the quintet's nearly-20-song set had nothing to do with school systems or Iraq; rather, the night showcased their latest release, Our Earthly Pleasures, as well as the singer's oft-suggestive dance moves implied by that album's title.
The bowler-hat-clad Smith came armed with an arsenal of amateur karate moves, split kicks, magician-like hand swoops, and grandiose gestures utilizing the mic stand. These high jinks were best realized during off-hours anthem "Your Urge," the sprightly and ever-erudite "A Fortnight's Time" (during which Smith fishes for a date by demonstrating math skills like "five times five equals twenty-five" and by rhyming "alphabetical" with "theoretical" and "dialectical"), and the Casio-fueled "Our Velocity," pounded out buoyantly courtesy of the pouty and Michael Pitt look-alike keyboardist, Lukas Wooller. And even when Smith paused between songs, the party continued, as the boom-thump vibrating off the ladies' night revelers downstairs seemed the perfect house-music accompaniment to the band's set.
While Smith essentially replicated the surging, wiry frenzy his band boasts on their positively fun albums -- down to his own pitch-perfect, careening ooohs -- the added bonus of watching Maximo Park perform live is getting the director's commentary. Smith was exceptionally gracious towards his crew (apparently their bus broke down somewhere in Connecticut, threatening to delay the band's set) and Manhattan's showgoers, especially when recalling his band's performance at now-defunct Lower East Side venues Tonic and Rothko several years back. But the tunesmith didn't turn out to be much of a wordsmith, as he introduced every song with little more to say than, "This song is about getting from point A to point B" ("Our Velocity") or "This is a song about someone worth treasuring" ("Apply Some Pressure"). Despite the sentiment scrawled across Smith's shirt, though, the anglophiles who turned out for the night's event, and the ladies' night stragglers who got lost on their way to the loo, weren't there for enlightenment. Dancing, or standing mesmerized at Smith's flamboyant agility, was perfectly, and earthly, pleasurable enough.