SUPPORT: Dead!, Judas
REVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN
It may have only been mid-April, but whilst waiting outside for the doors of The Sugarmill in Hanley to open, the lowering rays of sunshine beating down made it feel like a pleasant mid-summer’s evening.
However, that certainly wasn’t on the minds of the predominantly youthful patrons queuing up to get into the venue, as they were eager to see three top bands in action, led by alternative rock juggernauts Mallory Knox, who had stopped by in the Potteries as part of their latest UK tour.
Once everybody had been admitted and settled in, the night’s musical entertainment was ready to begin in earnest.
Opening proceedings were emerging indie-rock quartet Judas, currently based in London, but originating from all over Britain.
They have been tipped for big things by many in the music press, and judging by what I saw during their set, it was easy to see why.
Despite being a relatively young outfit, they already have a very strong setlist, which was played with much confidence and energy, with silky-smooth transitions between each track.
If there were any nerves from any of the four members while they were on stage, it certainly wasn’t evident, as it was clear that the outfit were having a good time, with frontman John Clancy engaging well with the crowd.
At the front, there were two rather over-excited audience members whooping throughout, some bands would have found this annoying, but not Judas, as John just simply smiled at them and told everyone, “Looks like we have two hardcore fans here tonight.”
John further built up credentials with the crowd, dedicating the band’s set finale, and latest single, ‘Wonderland’, which they had recorded at the iconic Abbey Road studios, to everyone watching.
Judas got things off to a good start, and it surely won’t be too long before they will be back at venues like this one headlining.
Dead! are a band that when I first saw them play live two years ago in Derby (when Raveneye’s Adam Breeze was their drummer), were in pretty much the same optimistic situation that Judas currently find themselves in.
In the 24 months since, the four-piece have gone from strength to strength, signing a record contract, playing a host of respected festivals and venues, as well as releasing a well-received debut album.
All of that success, as well as a sizable following that just keeps on growing, could have gone to their heads, but here, they were more than happy to play second fiddle to Mallory Knox.
Dead!’s set was abundant with energy throughout, a real showcase for their aggressive style of playing, with frontman Alex Mountford giving a stage performance so animated that it seemed like he had been downing can after can of Red Bull a few minutes prior.
Even though I was stood at the back of the room, I could still see an immense volume of sweat pouring down his face, so much so that at one point towards the end, he had to take a huge gulp from his water bottle and pat himself dry with a towel.
Guitarist Sam Matlock has a Kurt Cobain-esque vibe to him, both in how he looks and the way he plays, and I’m confident that if Kurt was still with us now, he would be championing these guys.
It was clear, both by the way Dead! played, and the reaction they were getting from the crowd, that the band are now well on their way to becoming a real force to be reckoned with.
Following such a sublime set, it was going to be tough for Mallory Knox to top that, especially as it is still relatively early days for the headliners’ new Mikey Chapman-less line-up, and when I had chatted to the band’s guitarists, Joe Savins and James Gillett, earlier in the evening, they said themselves and the other members had been concerned throughout the tour whether their fans would accept Sam Douglas as the new frontman.
However, the Cambridge four-piece needn’t have worried, as when they came on stage, one by one, there was such an almighty cheer from the crowd that they could have quite literally raised the roof off of The Sugarmill.
There were no drawn-out introductions following that, as the band launched full-throttle into their set, playing pretty much their entire back catalogue.
Sam wasn’t very animated, but he made the songs that had been sung originally by Mikey truly his own with a powerful vocal delivery.
When each track finished, the cheers grew louder and louder, and Sam did make a few references, albeit indirectly, to the tough time the collective had been having over the last couple of months, and when they had concluded, he took the time to thank everyone for sticking with them.
The set wasn’t very energetic, but it was effective, and it provided concrete proof that Mallory Knox have come through their recent trials and tribulations a stronger, more cohesive unit, and one that can look to the future with much optimism.
ALSO, TAKE A LOOK AT OUR INTERVIEW WITH JUDAS HERE.