English indie rockers Maximo Park released their sixth album, Risk to Exist, this year, and it’s both the most directly political they've ever been and their most engaging record in quite some time. While the album was mostly completed prior to Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, the songs (unfortunately) ring as true now as they did when they were conceived, taking on a diverse range of topics from the wage gap to the refugee crisis. Though the band has never made it as big in the US as they are in the UK, they have fortunately made it a point to tour here with each new release regardless. This time through, their tour made its Washington, DC stop at U Street Music Hall, where they played to a small crowd of dedicated fans.
Singer Paul Smith is one of the most energetic frontmen in indie rock today, well known for the way he constantly jumps and dances around. The small space at U Street may have somewhat limited his movement, but he didn’t let it cramp his style as he ran back and forth around the center of the stage, surrounded by his bandmates. The 20-song setlist was a good mix of new and old songs, focusing mostly on Risk to Exist and the group’s first two albums, 2005’s A Certain Trigger and 2007’s Our Earthly Pleasures (with a sprinkling of songs from each of the band’s three other records). Highlights included new songs “Risk to Exist,” “What Did We Do To You To Deserve This?,” “Work and Then Wait,” and “Get High (No I Don’t),” along with now classic tracks like “Books From Boxes,” “Signal and Sign,” “Girls Who Play Guitars,” and “Apply Some Pressure.”
Brooklyn-based rockers Active Bird Community opened the show, playing songs from their self-released third album “Stick Around,” which came out earlier this year.