Tom Smith is in an apologetic mood tonight. After the first five songs the slender and black-clad lead singer of Editors takes a break in proceedings to admit that the most embarrassing thing he has ever done on stage happened at this very venue. Last time Editors played Portsmouth Guildhall he charged on announcing “Good evening Norwich,” to much audience derision. It was not a good start. So it’s time for a humble apology. Acknowledging his error and celebrating the fact that tonight Editors are most certainly in Portsmouth, Smith wins the crowd over and receives a big cheer.
In a disposable world where the music industry seems geared toward short term thinking, it’s a testament to Editors staying power that they have now released three albums since their 2005 debut. Their third, 2009’s In This Light And On This Morning, even secured a number one UK chart position. It is evident from the bands performance why, unlike many other Brit indie rock bands that appeared in the mid-noughties, they have not faded away. Editors are professionals at their game, playing a well paced set that is musically tight and crowd pleasing, featuring a number of songs from all three of their records.
In front of four framed square projection screens, the band open with the title track to their new album, a darkly menacing song that heralds their new heavily synth based sound. The crowd reaction is a little reserved, but as the set develops and older songs such as Lights, Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors and the scintillating riff-powerful Bullets make an appearance things warm up significantly.
It’s not just the old songs that work though - bathed in green light The Big Exit sounds like a beautifully synthetic motorway journey, weaving bassy keyboard sounds amongst the robotic textures. The single Papillion is also hugely enjoyable, a thundering and celebratory romp through Depeche Mode’s own back yard. Tom Smith may be a fairly monosyllabic front man, mainly just offering the odd “Thank you,” to the audience, but is engaging to watch, whether he’s hunched double-handed over the microphone stand or pulling wiry shapes across the stage. His deep baritone like a softer Ian Curtis is also richly impressive, particularly when the music is stripped back to just a piano on No Sound But The Wind with its touching lyrics of “I’ll help you carry the load, I’ll carry you in my arms.” There are many times during Editors set when their music sounds weighty and doom laden, yet it is never less than enjoyable. When they play their best songs, such as the closing Papillion and Fingers In The Factory it’s even better than that and gives a palpable high to the end of the show.
Editors can consider this gig a job well done. A set which contains enough humility to find an apology but with enough pride and self-contained arrogance to not fall into the role of being mundane or wet-wipe average. Let’s hope that they continue for the long term.