The red drapes loosely fall across the stage as the lights bounce off the disco ball that dangles above the crowd; who are gradually starting to fill out the 260 capacity venue.
First on the agenda are Buckinghamshire boys Big Sixes who graciously squeeze themselves onto the small stage. As the opening act for Canterbury, Big Sixes usual chilled out vibe seems an unlikely band to have on their bill, however the band adapt themselves and step it up a notch as the percussion sounds more prominent and distinguished live than on record, which helps set the tone for the rest of tonight’s guests.
The distinctive voice of vocalist Charlie Costello is not one to be ignored as his vocals soar across the room and take the crowd on a well travelled journey of luscious melodies and harmonies. He is joined by his backing vocalists bassist and the lead guitarist, both of whom adequately compliment Costello’s unique voice.
Despite little being known about the band on the world wide web, they have an impressive turn out and appear to have gained new fans to their fiercely loyal fan base. Their not-so-shameless merch promotion proved successful and the band members were found chatting away to members of their gig, a feat which is definitely respected in this day and age. Their tshirts were proudly modelled by several of the band members, which is slightly more shameless but the boys are pretty enough to pull it off.
The band end their set on ‘Heaven Sent‘ which topped off a successful performance. Having warmed up the crowd for the next act, they may have exceeded too many expectations as Blitz Kids failed to follow.
Up next are Blitz Kids, who are just that; kids. Donning a uniform of Manchester City football shirts, skinny jeans and tattoo-covered limbs, the boys felt the need to bring their own equipment to the show, which included a light up microphone stand (it looked cooler than it sounds).
Whilst looking ‘cool’ is clearly important to them, they should have focused more on their sound levels than fancy equipment. The guitars were barely audible throughout the entirety of their 45 minute set and the drums were over pronounced. Their use of strobe lighting was enough to create an epileptic fit for the blind, but the deaf may have been more suited to this particular performance.
The vocalist, Joe James, stumbles on stage in a feigned drunken manner and slurs his lyrics in a similar fashion. However, he interacts well with the crowd who are loyally singing back the lyrics as if their little lives depend on it.
The stage presence of guitarist Jono Yates is hard to ignore as he puts on a show of his own bouncing from one foot to the next. Yet his intelligence is questionable as soon as he opens his mouth. “I’m having a fucking nightmare up here” shouts Yates as he struggled, but stylishly succeeded to smash out a guitar solo balancing it on his knee due to his guitar strap breaking. “This is professionality right here this is.” Ah yes. That’s the word we were all looking for; “professionality”…Don’t give up your day job just yet mate.
Whilst all eyes are on James and Yates, bassist Nic Montgomery sulks in the corner of the stage like a moody teenager, with little interaction towards his fellow band members and even less towards the crowd.
Much like respect, you have to earn the right to be arrogant. These however, did not.
As they finished up their set with the upbeat ‘On My Own’, the guitarist left the stage before the song had even finished, with James closely following having just dropped the microphone on stage. It’s alright when Alex Turner does it at The Brits, but not here.
By this point of the night the venue is full and the unusual array of teenage girls and middle aged men show just how diverse a band Canterbury truly are.
Known for their regular interaction with their faithful fan base, front man Mike Sparks doesn’t even need to utter a word, just a quick thumbs up of acknowledgement towards the crowd leads to a chorus of frenzied cheers, woos and claps as the band dive head first into the first song of their set ‘Expensive Imitation’. The reaction of the crowd is far less than hesitant as a sea of hands immediately reaches towards the high ceiling.
Sparks proves that he was a born vocalist, probably singing before he could talk, as he shows no mercy to his vocal chords through his vein-popping, neck-straining, sweat-glistening performance.
And it’s not only Sparks that can hold a tune. Bassist Luke Pebble shows he is a man of many talents as he takes the vocal lead in several throughout the night, only adding to the variety of their performance.
“One song that we’ve been planning to play for a while now,” announces Sparks, “but tonight just feels like the right night to play it” as he treats Manchester and leads in to ‘Hold Your Own’ from latest album ‘Dark Days’.
Their setlist is a healthy balance between their latest record which was released in January of this year and their debut album ‘Thankyou’ as the band remain true to their roots. They also include songs off their second album ‘Heavy In The Day’. Songs performed included ‘Satellite’, ‘Saviour’, ‘All My Life’ and ‘Friends? We’re More Like A Gang’.
The guitarist may be a man of few words, but his appreciation of his fans was evident as he put on a professional performance. And if it wasn’t for the good old Wikipedia, it would of been impossible to guess that their currently drummer Chris Velissarides had only been playing in the band for less than a year.
The barrier between Canterbury and their crowd had been broken as class, age and gender became irrelevant as everybody united for one thing; Canterbury. This became clear as the man who could barely hold himself up still managed to hold up his arms as he lovingly clutched a can of Stella in each hand.
Their encore included three songs from three different album but the show was stolen by their performance of ‘Gloria’. If the delight wasn’t proof enough in the faces of their admiring fans, then it certainly was in the band as each member went the extra mile and then some. The band barely stopped for breathe in between each song as they play hit after hit to the absolute best of their ability, putting on an insanely energetic show.
On record, Canterbury sound as clean as their posh private school upbringing but are something else entirely live. Give them a microphone and a place to play and they will bring in the crowd alone. Their ferocious performance makes them definitely a band to catch this year.