LIVE: Canterbury / Blitz Kids / Big Sixes @ Dingwalls, London [09/04/14]

By Ben Tipple

Marking the end of their short stint around the UK, melody driven rockers Canterbury are about to grace the stage in front of a sell-out audience at Camden’s Dingwalls. With the release of their third full-length garnering critical acclaim, those patiently waiting in the snaking queue across the docks are seemingly buzzing with excitement.

Although warming up the crowd is by no means necessary in the sweltering venue, Big Sixes are tasked with doing just that. Their alternatively infused folk-rock hints at Deaf Havana, but with a more subtle approach to their song-writing. Vocally strong, and with some immediately catchy tunes to boot, the lack of any substantial stage presence can be excused. Their contradicting dual vocals give the sound a unique edge, underpinned by an acoustic air despite being plugged in.

As Blitz Kids solemnly walk onto the stage and announce the theft of some of their vital equipment, frontman Joey James appears defeated, reluctantly promising three acoustic songs to the expectant crowd. With drummer Matt Freer relegated for the evening, and James’ vocals on full display, this proves to be Blitz Kids at their most exposed.

In some senses it works – it’s impossible to deny the hook laden choruses when they are being shouted back at the band at full volume, and the impromptu handclaps and passionate sing-alongs are genuinely uplifting (Jono Yates finding it impossible to hide his delight). Yet it also highlights the band’s faults – James’ vocals take on a particularly nasal tone and miss significant notes in set closer ‘Never Die’ – a track that undoubtedly benefits from a full accompaniment. Blitz Kids have been pushing at the melodic mainstream for a while, but there are certainly some creases that need to be ironed out before they will get there.

Canterbury, on the other hand, have done their laundry – creases and blemishes never even come into play. Instead, they prove once again that they are one of the tightest, promising and most exciting bands on the British circuit. Their tracks are abundant with genre influences, ranging from blues to rock and roll, all the while magnified by their ability to write a damn good melody.

Predominantly playing songs from ‘Heavy In The Day’ and the most recent ‘Dark Days’, it’s immediately evident that their song-writing has been geared towards a live setting. ‘Expensive Imitation’, ‘Satellite’ and ‘Run from a Gun’ not only sound huge blasting from the stage, but they showcase frontman Mike Sparks’ remarkable vocal ability. He never fails to hit a note in his distinctively pitched and ever-powerful style.

Most impressive is the band’s ability to keep up momentum, even throughout more downbeat inclusions ‘Garden Grows’ and the ‘Heavy In The Day’ title-track. Completely owning the stage throughout, the warm conditions magnified by the sheer number of moving bodies do little to diminish the band’s energy. From the opening notes to the final reverb, Canterbury are simply on fire.

Other than some over-cautious comments from Sparks, tonight showcases a British band at their best. Three albums in, Canterbury are displaying enough force and momentum to captivate audiences in bigger venues and on bigger stages. Their distinctive edge, excellent material and high-energy performance is miles ahead of any other melodic rock band pushing into the mainstream, and with any luck (and a more than a little deserved justice), this will get them noticed.