London SSE Wembley arena, 28th February 2020

“I swear to God, in this light and on this evening,
London's become, the most beautiful thing I've seen”

Editors, 2009.

Fifteen years ago, yes, you read that right, FIFTEEN years ago, way back when I still had most of my hair, I reviewed my first Editors gig at The Junction in Cambridge for this here very R*E*P*E*A*T* fanzine. I think it was even physically printed onto paper back then. As usual, I digress...

Editors are currently winding up a massive European tour playing arenas and their largest venues to date promoting their new Best Of package ‘Black Gold’, so named after one of three brand-new (and pretty excellent) recordings made for the collection. ‘Black Gold’ gives a great overview of the band taking in all eras in pretty much equal measure. Often still mis-labelled as shoegazing gloom panderers, Editors have more than outgrown this early phase. Strip away Tom’s vocals from recent tracks like ‘Hallelujah (So Low)’ or new cut ‘Frankenstein’ and you’ve got something approaching early Nine Inch Nails industrial techno going on. Obviously, this is a far cry from the first couple of records which were undeniably in the vein of Joy Division, Interpol and Echo and the Bunnymen. This then is one of Editors greatest strengths – they have not been afraid to evolve and to innovate. Imagine six albums worth of ‘The Back Room’? God, that sounds too bleak to contemplate. Third album ‘In This Light and on This Evening’, particularly lead single ‘Papillon’, was very much a gateway to Editors v2.0. Since then they’ve continued to change with each release (although to be fair, we probably could have done without the attempt to sound as U2 as possible on ‘The Weight of Your Love’).

This love of innovation and change is clearly apparent in their live shows too. Now, of course, bigger venues allow more lighting and stage trickery to take place, but this show does indeed look great. The band are permanently almost hidden in dry ice with the red, green and orange lighting often focusing on just Tom Smith as he stalks and slithers around the stage like a well-dressed Iggy Pop. Speaking of change, perhaps in their erstwhile frontman is this most apparent. During ‘The Back Room’ era I remember Tom Smith being rooted to the spot, hiding behind his guitar, almost never even daring to make eye contact with the audience. Tonight, he is a man transformed. This Tom Smith is a supremely confident, swaggering, slinky, rock pro frontman. He’s not just ‘the singer’. He’s the whole sound, look and feel of the band encapsulated into one mega-ultimate-popstar.

As one would expect on a ‘Best Of’ tour, people are here for the hits. So, let’s get on with it.

Let the nostalgia begin! The opening salvo of ‘An End Has a Start’, ‘Bullets’, ‘Bones‘ and ‘Escape the Nest’ take us right back to those first two albums. And they are all bangers. Any concern that they might exclude this stuff in favour of more chart-friendly modern tracks goes immediately out of my mind. The band seem to enjoy playing these older songs as much now as they did over a decade ago. Moving on from this, the next section kind of goes towards the more modern hits era. So ‘Magazine’ and ‘Sugar’ sit comfortably with newies ‘Frankenstein’ and Violence’. My only potential gripe is that there are a couple of tunes, notably ‘Upside Down’ and ‘Ocean of Night’ which pander slightly towards the new modern group chanting enlightenment Imagine Dragons type crowd. Which is... fine. If that’s your thing.

Mid set, the band throw out ‘Papillon’. Really, this works best as a main set closer but here it is slap bang in the middle. And it is GIGANTIC. As the synths build to the crescendo of “it kicks like a sleep twitch!” all of Wembley becomes unhinged over and over again. It’s pretty incredible. Shortly after this, the rest of the band leave the stage for Tom to give an acoustic version of ‘No Sound but the Wind’, a song dating as far back as 2008 but finally getting a proper album release on sixth album ‘Violence’. It’s a tender moment which allows the crowd a break before the second half of the show.

The Radio 2 era is represented next with ‘A Ton of Love’ and ‘Formaldehyde’ which seems to be the only real time I think the band have compromised their sound for commerciality. After this, it’s the home run of straight up classics. ‘All Sparks’, ‘Blood’ and ‘Fingers in the Factories’ take us all the way back to the band's origins before the final main set closer of early B-side ‘You are Fading’ (for probably the last time once this tour wraps up).

Encore time and it’s a rare outing for ‘The Back Room’ album closer ‘Distance’ which immediately feels just as frail but huge at the same time as it did 15 years ago, before the band became the slick professionals they are now. Then it’s a home run of ‘The Racing Rats’, ‘Munich’ and bleak-goth-singalong ‘Smokers Outside the Hospital Doors’. And as the ten thousand odd people in Wembley sing back at full gusto “We’ve all been changed from what we were / Our broken hearts smashed on the floor” you kind of get the idea that this crowd will all be eager to see where the band go from here.

And yeah, this feels like a good time for Editors to do the “The Greatest Hits” thing. For once, it doesn’t seem like a cynical cash-grab following a career slump unlike some band that I won’t mention. It seems like a celebration of 15 years and six albums (two of which were UK number one albums) and a kind of full stop on this chapter of the band. I look forward to hearing what comes next.

Words - Richard Bull
Pix - https://www.theupcoming.co.uk


Editors played
An End Has a Start
Escape the Nest
Upside Down
Ocean of Night
No Sound but the Wind
A Ton of Love
Eat Raw Meat = Blood Drool
All Sparks
Fingers in the Factories
You Are Fading
The Racing Rats
Smokers Outside the Hospital Doors