Sunday, 13 April 2014

At a canter: live review of Canterbury at Dingwalls

Canterbury *****
Blitz Kids *****
Big Sixes ***1/2**

Dingwalls, Camden, Wednesday 9th April 2014

The scene: 
In the foetid belly of Camden Lock's most Stygian recesses, gather an unholy horde of dip-dyed fringes, grisly bearded bastards, plugged lobes, pierced and inked flesh and, well lots of terribly nice, respectable A level students called Josh and Katrina.

The Cast: 
The young, friendly, cheeky and slightly bohemian art student upstart played by Big Sixes
The cock-sure, smoking, drinking edgy bigger brother who gets all the girls played by Blitz Kids
The Big brother. Buttoned-down, suave and smooth intelligent trainee lawyer played by Canterbury

The plot: 
The three young British brothers aim to seduce the assembled outsiders, beasts and ne'erdowells using merely the power of rock and roll. 

Act 1: Big Sixes ***1/2**

First up are the tuneful tyros Big Sixes who deliver a melodic, quirky but uplifting and rousing short set of jaunty alty folky rocky indie goodness which gets the already heaving sweat bunker on its feet. There's a definite Turin Brakes influence with maybe even a hint of Twin Atlantic thrown in. Fresh, perky, tidy stuff.

Before the second act begins, we're all informed that all Blitz Kids' gear has been stolen. The stealing of bands' gear appears sadly to be a relatively regular occurrence and it defies belief. Theft as a whole is obviously a moral and legal no-no, but if thieving low-lives are going to steal stuff, then they should pick their fucking targets more discerningly. 

Stealing a band's gear is like breaking a painter's fingers and scooping his eyeballs out, lopping the cock off a porn actor or cutting the throat out of a mezzosoprano. It goes far beyond just theft. It is denying someone their livelihood. 

Insurance aside, instruments, effects, laptops and other essential kit are often irreplaceable. Without sounding wanky, a musician forms a bond with their stuff. A favourite beaten up old Strat copy maybe the only guitar for a particular song. That rubbish old tube screamer pedal may have been the one that nailed the perfect sound on the seminal album. The initial rough ProTools demo of a future banger No 1 among the dodgy porn Mpegs on that old iBook. And now? Some miserable, low life arse wipe gets a few quid for it all at a pawn shop.

Social reasons for theft thrown to one side in this case as a specious distraction, it's just fucking outrageous and, though revenge and retribution don't help, I hope the miserable shits that jacked the stuff overdose from the cheap shit they'll buy with their ill-gotten gains or die fucking horribly of bowel cancer. Cunts.

Act 2: Blitz Kids *****

So, shorn of their gear, everyone could forgive the self styled naughty boys of the pop rock scene (if there is such a thing) for cancelling their slot this evening. But, as frontman Joey James informs us, playing, undaunted is a fuck you to the thieving fuckers. 

The ever garrulous Jono Yates, squatting behing a borrowed acoustic gets in on the act too, proclaiming stoically that they won't be beaten. And what follows is testament to integrity, strength and huge, swollen testes.

I'll be honest, this particular jury of one is still out over the general Blitz Kids thang. I've seen them several times over the last couple of years, in toilets, dingy cellars, supporting bands further upstream at large venues, at festivals and, more recently headlining supporting their debut long player. And although there are many good bits, I haven't been wholly convinced about their true chop. Until now.

pared down three song ( On My Own, Sometimes and Never Die), mildly shambolic but passionate, genuinely moving and heartfelt set says more about this band than any PR, hype, bloody funny twitter banter from the taciturn and foul mouthed Jono ever could. This is a bunch of young, honest guys baring their hearts. No filler. No samples, triggers, rent-a-guitar extras or slick production, just three real songs, sung back by the adoring throng, showing the real lads behind the slick media persona.

You can almost suffer every hard mile in a stinking van, taste every greasy service station cheese and ham savoury slice, feel every bump and creak on strangers' floors. They tear their chests open and show the real band behind the schtick. And it's honestly moving.

Act 3: Canterbury *****

Following their younger upstart brother; the pop rock band de jour, was always going to be a potentially tricky task for Canterbury, but after Blitz Kids' raw, exposed, emotional acoustic baring of souls and fizzing of the front row's knickers, that potential difficulty looked like more of a hard threat of an upstaging.

They needn't have worried though. The band stride effortlessly into full swing, opening with the raucous and anthemic Expensive Imitation from their splendid third album Dark Days. The sweaty, foisty gloomy bunker is brought to sparkling and vibrant life with passionate and loud sing backs to every song.

The first three albums are all represented with a varied main set takes in the triumphant Wrapped in Rainbows before ending with a joyous and deliciously irony-soused crowdaoke version Going Nowhere.

Despite the ever-present awkwardness of nobody seeming to know how to ask for an encore (what the hell is wrong with simply shouting More!!!? - it seems to have served every generation up until now perfectly well), the band, clearly loving every second of the sold out love-fest and emerge for three final rousing sing-a-longs ending with Friends? We're More Like A Gang from their first album from what seems like aeons ago but sounds as fresh and relevant as ever.

Canterbury are at the top of their game tonight. As they are at the very top of the radio friendly alt pop rock scene game. Their music is intelligent, infectious, often catchier than HDN-1 but has a sophisticated and grown up underbelly. Bigger venues and stages surely await. 

On the strength of tonight's overall performances, British Rock (whichever tiresome classification, taxonomy or genre-driven pigeon-holing you use) is in the rudest of rude health. And long may it continue.


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