LIVE: Canterbury at Tunbridge Wells Forum [14/12/12]

By Lais

As Canterbury proclaim that tonight is formed of two British bands supporting another British band, and that tonight is set to prove that British rock music is not dead (arguably we are unsure who might have suggested this in the first place), they manage to put a lot of weight on their shoulders. Bookending the year with two tours actively showcasing talent across the island – January saw them take The Xcerts and Straight Lines on the road, while their current tour welcomes Mallory Knox and Scholars – there is a clear determination to prove themselves, and indeed to carry the flag for (dare I say it again) British music.

It might be difficult to explain, but there is an undeniable difference between home-grown bands and ones from further afield. Musical styles may differ between the two, however in this case each band is distinctly British; nowhere else in the world produces the type of melodic rock on display tonight in the recently refurbished Forum.

More importantly the reception differs – evident in the screams that await Mallory Knox frontman Mikey Chapman in particular as he takes to the stage. This band belongs to the crowd; they have been nurtured by fans and equally play back to their audiences. The new material sounds positively explosive next to the comparatively pedestrian material from the Pilot EP – the band equally taken aback by the response from audiences to both sets of material. This response is entirely justified as Chapman owns the stage with support from the remaining band members. 2013 can only mean big things for Mallory Knox as both their music and presence expand dramatically. As Punktastic ventures across the room somebody mentions to their friend that these guys will be playing stadiums before too long, and this reviewer wholeheartedly agrees.

It’s an accolade that Scholars are still fighting for but the effort the band put in has to be commended. Led by the frontman (Sam Nicholls) perhaps more than Mallory Knox due to a subdued ensemble, the band deliver polished flamboyancy throughout their opening set. Musical progression from older material to the likes of ‘Blinda Data’ and ‘Bad For Business’ is evident, yet they still have not quite found their stride. Efforts by Nicholls to liven up activity with frequent forays into the crowd are admirable but only offer some distraction from a set without any real highlights and an accompanying band that appear less than enthusiastic. There is promise on display, but still an uphill struggle to join the likes of their touring partners anytime soon.

Canterbury may appreciate this struggle more once this tour is over (tonight being the penultimate date on their thirteen date tour). Even belter ‘Something Better’ battles against the wake left by the preceding band – with frontman (of sorts) Mike Sparks offering an understated “hello” before leaping into the track. It is not the performance that is struggling, nor is it the track; Mallory Knox by all accounts produced a headline-worthy show and Canterbury have subsequently ended up feeling like something of an afterthought. There is not much left for them to do but give it their all, and by the time ‘More Than Know’ engulfs the venue all initial apprehension has dissipated.

Flying through thirteen tracks from both albums, ‘Heavy in the Day’ material deservedly proves the favourite. Placed against tracks from ‘Thank You’, the complexity and artistic skill of the newer songs are further exaggerated. This does not have a negative effect on older material which still retains the vibrancy that pushed Canterbury into the limelight some years back, however the maturity and elegance of tracks such as ‘Heavy in the Day’ and ‘She’s A Flame’ and the considered energy of ‘Saviour’ and ‘Gloria’ shine through.

If tonight is aimed to show the survival instinct of British rock it has not only met, but shattered the walls of expectation. Based on these performances it is highly unlikely that these bands will be sharing stages in small venues at any point in the future. Whether the weight on their shoulders is deliberate or a by-product of misguided cynicism is proved altogether irrelevant – what matters is the clear ability by Mallory Knox and Canterbury to take the world by storm, with Scholars not too far behind.