As if part of some hedonistic dream night packed with parties, bars, restaurants, and fun new friends, Editors have captured my heart in whirlwind fury. And I’m not alone. After selling out two shows in LA, Editors performed the same feat in New York, packing both Mercury Lounge and Rothko to capacity. Each evening saw mobs of industry types trying every trick in their voluminous books to squeeze onto the guestlist.
And there’s a reason. From the moment the band’s debut The Back Door opens, the ghost of Ian Curtis welcomes you into his arms. Littered with references to Joy Division—by way of Depeche Mode and Echo and the Bunnymen—the band offers a lesson in what post-punk and new wave were, and what they could have been.
21 Jan 2006: Mercury Lounge New York
Of course, that’s what I know now. Despite the hype swirling in the popular music press, I managed to walk into the show without any preconceived notions. Breathing room by the stage was at a premium and there was really no room for movement or dancing—only limited writhing. Within three songs I became a drooling little schoolgirl ready to litter my MySpace page with love letters to Tom Smith. I spent the next 30 minutes trying to imagine how I could possibly scribe an impartial article given my passion for what was happening onstage.
On The Back Door Smith comes across as little more than an average lead singer (and, perhaps, a slightly above average guitar player). In live performance he is a supremely powerful force, with unwavering vocals. Smith controls his pitch, resisting temptation to play up to the crowd. With a strong stage presence and confidence growing by the minute, the hour, and the sold out show, he will be a different performer by the end of the year—a self-assured, seasoned vet.
Behind Smith sits Ed “the machine” Lay, driving the signature hi-hat rhythm and avoiding the ambitious in favor of a single, solid structure. Chris Urbanowicz uses an arsenal once only available to the likes of stadium-filling bands from Ireland, scrapping, clawing, and screeching, before pulling hard on the reins of reverb to offer tender notes. Russell Leetch places a warm duvet of fuzzy bass around the songs, petting the hearts of those turned cold by all the melodrama.
The band’s singles have been carefully selected from an album of merit, and a palpable rise in the accompanying crowd volume was noticeable as each was trotted out. “Bullets” and “Blood” seared the hearts and souls of the tender with hauntingly maudlin tones of desperation. Where feelings were once captured and sold to us by Interpol in largely bloated, indigestible grab-bags, Editors deliver calculated, nutritious bits of emotion.
“You Are Fading”—a b-side from Editors’ first UK single “Bullets”—received gloriously tender treatment. Album highlight “All Sparks” shimmered with beauty as wave after wave of feedback-laden guitar coursed through the sumptuous track. Even as Smith breathed the soul-tearing confessions of “Fall,” a collective lump began to form in the throats of the audience.
Interpol may have surprised a few of us with lack of variance in their follow-up albums, but Editors’ composure in live performance suggests that the band might be in it for the long haul. Editors simply have a deeper demeanor, better delivery, and more talent. It’s clear that the members of Editors have worked hard to break through a cluttered UK market packed with pretenders to the throne, and have no intension of letting go until they wear the crown. Go and see them now before you are forced to squint from the second tier of a sports stadium. It’ll happen, because, as my MySpace account will soon proclaim: Tom Smith is a real dreamboat.