Live Review: Editors @ Heineken Music Hall, Amsterdam – 4.11.15

You’d have forgiven Editors for assuming themselves to be celebrities in Holland, especially considering the explosive level of shows they play within its borders. Bar Belgium, the band are very much your middle-of-the-road club and theatre outfit, yet once the border into Holland or Belgium has been crossed, things change. We’ve pointed this out before, because it’s just a remarkable feat which only a band like Editors could achieve. Last night, the Tom Smith fronted quintet played the first of three sold out shows at Amsterdam’s intimate (by Editors’ standards) Heineken Music Hall. Scottish outfit The Twilight Sad joined the party for one night only (Public Service Broadcasting will join tonight, with Danish group Mew joining tomorrow). Read on for our full live review of the show.

Glasgow trio The Twilight Sad opened the show in front of a sizeable crowd, performing songs from the stunning recent album Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave. The band, fronted by the eclectic frontman James Graham (whose sporadically spastic moves got everyone intrigued), kicked off their set with the pulsating There’s a Girl in the Corner, with Graham’s demure vocals soaring through the Heineken Music Hall. Early set highlight Last January made for the most encapsulating moment in the set, before the interestingly titled I Became a Prostitute drew a good reaction from the crowd. Although it was clearly evident that the band were playing for a room full of Editors fans, they still gave it their absolute all and actually pulled it off pretty well. The Twilight Sad’s music is more meant for small, intimate spaces (like Rotterdam’s Rotown, where they’ll play tonight), however for just thirty minutes the Glaswegians (backed up by two live musicians) managed to turn a 5,500-capacity strong room into a tiny club. And that’s a special skill to possess. We might not hear from this band very much at the top end of rock, however they’ll always be an underground force to be reckoned with.

Editors took to the stage some thirty minutes later, being given an unusually lukewarm reception from the otherwise enthusiastic crowd. A majority of the audience was made up of people above the age of 30, many of them even older. It wasn’t your usual type of fangirls-and-students crowd, as was the case last time Editors played a massive show in Holland (2013’s stellar Ziggo Dome show). Many people looked like they just left the workplace and rushed down, with the band not managing to feed very well off of their reluctant energy for the first half of the show. Although the crowd were definitely not on top form, Editors were very much the opposite. From the off, the band were at the top of their game. Taking to a stage adorned by lightsabre-esque panels, a fake concrete wall and two large video screens, the band slowly gained ground through new album opener No Harm. The track, which brings new record In Dream to a slow-yet-euphoric start, bubbled up from arpeggio-synths all the way to a plucked bassline which signalled Tom Smith’s falsetto vocals. 2013’s Sugar followed, changing tack instantly with a fuzzy bassline and huge chorus. During the latter, each big note was accompanied by flourishes of fire which shot up into the air. It was just one of many grandiose elements which made out part of Editors’ show, with the flames just the beginning. Pacey electro doom presented itself during Life is a Fear, In Dream’s lead single. “Life is a fear of falling through cracks” sang Smith in his best falsetto voice, his vocals underpinned by Ed Lay’s electronic percussion and some sparkly synths courtesy of Elliott Williams. Guitarist Justin Lockey was absent tonight, travelling back to the UK for the imminent birth of his third child. He was replaced by Nicholas Willes, who joined the band in adorning smart clothing and a slick haircut. His input was definitely visible, something especially down to frontman extraordinaire Smith, who made plenty of references to the whole band around him. Older tracks Blood and An End has a Start injected nostalgia into the set, with the latter utilizing a powerful introduction and massive riff. “You came on your own, and that’s how you leave” sang Smith during the chorus as 5,500 voices all sang the same line back to him. Newer track Forgiveness provided contrast, slowing the pace and redirecting the focus towards a powerful instrumental section and Smith’s crooning vocals. “The flag in your hand don’t make you American” he sang from behind his piano, All Sparks following to interject more nostalgia into the set for fans who knew the band ‘before they got big’.

Although the crowd still hadn’t really gotten going (it took a while), 2009’s Eat Raw Meat = Blood Drool made sure that some sort of activity came from the crowd’s part. Eat Raw Meat’s fuzzy bassline, courtesy of the longstanding Russel Leetch, held the track together alongside melancholic verses and a dark-as-hell piano section towards the end. It’s easily one of the band’s best songs, being narrowly challenged to that title by the equally captivating The Racing Rats. From the moment that its piano line kicks in, the track doesn’t stray far from being massive. The riff that ensues is enormous, with every element of the track only being outdone by what followed. The Racing Rats’ climaxed in a pyrotechnic waterfall which descended from the ceiling right down to the floor, with each pounding instrumental stab making the effects more visceral. This was one of last night’s crowning moments, with The Racing Rats tending to do this most nights. 2013 single Formaldehyde incited a big sing-a long moment during its catchy chorus, before Salvation dampened the fun and transformed the stage into a serious place of ritual. “SALVATION!” declared Smith throughout, with Lay’s pounding percussion standing out here. On record, the song is laced by strings which, live, are morphed into buzzing synths and pulsating wobbles. It’s a nice contrast, however it just misses that one little bit of energy which the In Dream version carries. Energy was ongoing during old hit Bullets, which received a massive reception from the slowly warming up crowd. “You don’t need this disease, oh no you don’t need this disease” sang Smith, with multi-instrumentalist Elliott Williams accompanying him in a lighter tone. It preceded another highlight of the evening – A Ton of Love. Taken from 2013’s The Weight of Your Love, it’s one of the most upbeat songs Editors have to their name, and quite rightly so. A repeated refrain of “Desire! Desire!” as well as some stadium rock guitars make this song an absolute onstage behemoth. Smith took it upon himself to coerce the crowd into action from a makeshift mini-catwalk as his band (and photographer/In Dream visualist Rahi Rezvani) backed him.

As the main set descended towards an end, the whole band bar Smith left the stage as the frontman remained with an acoustic guitar. Early track (and fan favourite) Smokers Outside the Hospital Doors received the acoustic treatment, being stripped away from all of its bombast and majesty. “Our broken hearts are smashed on the floor” sang Smith, his soft, murmuring vocal echoing throughout the Heineken Music Hall. As his band re-entered the stage, Ed Lay signalled Bricks & Mortar’s click-beat percussion intro, with it being followed by buzzsaw synths and hypnotic green lighting. The song itself does drag on to an extent, but this is where the visual aspect of Editors’ live show enters the frame and adds a new, spectacular dimension. New track All the Kings sounded like a classic in the making, utilizing a memorable melody as well as a huge chorus. “Loneliness forever, holding back a river” sang Smith euphorically as he energetically bounded around the stage. He’s more than just a lead vocalist, he’s an all-round frontman who possesses so much talent and versatility that it’d be hard to draw many comparisons. The drab-on-record Nothing followed, being given a kick up the arse which sent it down a grandiose path of call-and-response choruses, bombastic instrumental sections and an absolutely fantastic crowd reception. Munich ended the main set, handing out one more immense selection of nostalgic riffs, licks and choruses to satisfy the die-hards. Re-emerging for an encore just two minutes later, the band ensured it’d be nothing short of a party by kicking off with new single Ocean of Nights. Live, the track is aided by an extremely danceable percussive beat which injects about 100x more energy into the rather subdued track. The Caribbean-esque melody, controlled on a pad by Willes, added an experimental atmosphere to proceedings before slowly dying down and leading into the moment most people had (probably) waited for – Papillon. Although the band were already popular in Holland when this song came out, its release and subsequent popularity became the catalyst for festival headline sets and arena sell-outs. Electronic melodies and jumpy choruses intertwine on Papillon, with the track having been extended to include an extra rock/rave moment. It featured enough flamethrowers to burn the house down, but Editors didn’t need fire to do that. Marching Orders ended a pretty triumphant evening on a danceable note as the
band turned this slow-burner into another Caribbean-esque, confetti-laden stunner filled with euphoria.

Editors at the Paard van Troje in October. © Jack Parker

Editors left the stage victorious, knowing that they’d satisfied the generally calm crowd enough to keep them coming back night after night after night. After yesterday’s show, the band will play two more shows at the same venue, which accounts for about 16,500 tickets. Rumours are rife that the band will headline Pinkpop Festival next year (alongside the previously announced Rammstein and Red Hot Chili Peppers), which definitely will be a well-deserved headline spot if they do get it. Editors aren’t a household name all over the world (this should change), but they’re big enough in the Benelux region to sustain a career for as long as they want to.

All pictures courtesy of Irwan Notosoetarso of Fotono Photography.