LIVE: Mallory Knox / Blitz Kids @ O2 Academy, Islington [12/12/13]

By Ben Tipple

2013 has been quite the year for Mallory Knox. Between releasing their debut album ‘Signals’ back in January and tonight’s headline performance in the capital as part of their extensive UK tour, the hook driven rockers have squeezed in main stage performances at Reading and Leeds Festival, signed to Search & Destroy Records and jetted around the globe. Their more commercial sound has catapulted them onto mainstream radio playlists, including the ever-influential Radio 1 – as the radio-waves blasted their anthemic ‘Lighthouse’ extensively during the first months of the year.

With album number 2 on the way, it’s unlikely that Mallory Knox will be gracing the stage at Islington’s O2 Academy again anytime soon. Should things continue along the same trajectory in 2014, it’s likely that they will be heading to London based stages in Shepherds Bush, Kentish Town or even Brixton in the near future. The fact that Mallory are set to take to the stage in front of a sold out audience tonight, and the diversity within the crowd – there are substantially more mature members of the audience than you might initially expect – are clear and positive indicators that things are going well, to say the least.

It’s difficult to see why Blitz Kids haven’t followed the same route. Despite releasing their debut full-length album in 2011, the band have historically struggled to reach the levels enjoyed by their touring partners. Hitting the road with Mallory Knox is definitely going to build on their exposure, and despite the incessant sound issues caused by the room’s layout, they appear to have all the necessary ingredients – at least superficially.

Opening with their latest single ‘Run For Cover’, they show that there has clearly been a shift in direction with their songwriting. The tracks feel meatier in a live environment, emphasized by their soaring riffs. Frontman Joe James looks comfortable, even cocky, on stage as he belts into the microphone. Unfortunately the power of his voice wavers throughout the set, and tracks such as the climactic ‘Never Die’ fall a little flat when compared with the recorded material. Overall they fall just foul of the mark, but a mark that is certainly within their reach.

Mallory Knox battle similar sound issues (we blame the mezzanine level getting in the way), but there are zero concerns over frontman Mickey Chapman’s vocals. As he commands the stage from opener ‘Hello’ through the occasional pre-‘Signals’ track to the inevitable closer ‘Lighthouse’, it is clear that the band are thoroughly adept at their art. The addition of a new track – ‘Ghost in the Mirror’ – from the forthcoming album suggests a reasonably similar direction, with continued focus on a catchy melody.

Tonight’s performance is direct and well delivered, if not a little safe. Those looking for an edge in their music, both recorded and live, will find little to endear themselves to in Mallory Knox. Yet with the stage bookended by the bands 6ft high illuminated initials, Mallory Knox don’t contradict that they are destined for big things. Its non-confrontational nature will undoubtedly see the M and K on bigger and better stages, but we’re left wanting a little more bite. Still, a fitting end for an exceptional year for the Cambridge upstarts.