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Live Review: Mallory Knox and PVRIS at Marquee Theatre, Tempe, AZ – 24th January 2015

 
By on Friday, 30th January 2015 at 2:00 pm
 

Cambridge alt-rock quintet Mallory Knox have signed on as support for punk rock bands Pierce the Veil and Sleeping with Sirens on the second leg of their American co-headline tour, which began on the 23rd of January and runs through the 4th of March.

Doors for the double support, double headline show at the Marquee Theatre were opened at the obscenely early hour of 5 PM, and when I arrived at the venue, the queue for entry was already around the block. As soon as I saw the massive throng of teenagers standing outside, I understood the reason for the early start. I knew I had bitten off more than I could chew, but I bravely soldiered my way in. Luckily for me, Mallory Knox were the first opener, and despite having to play at 6:30 PM, they were right on form to set the tone for the evening.

Judging from the overwhelming number of Pierce the Veil and Sleeping with Sirens hats and t-shirts in the crowd, I wasn’t sure how well Mallory Knox would be received. Most of the kids in attendance didn’t seem to know or care who the opening bands were. But their anxious enthusiasm for the headliners quickly transformed into enthusiastic appreciation as Mallory Knox opened with the energetic ‘Beggars’, from their 2013 album ‘Signals’. I wasn’t very familiar with Mallory Knox’s back catalogue, but I did recognize in the set list three of the singles from the band’s recent LP ‘Asymmetry’, namely ‘Shout at the Moon’, ‘When Are We Waking Up?’ and ‘Ghost In The Mirror’.

Mallory Knox at Marquee Theatre 24 Jan 2015

Lead vocalist Mikey Chapman was confident and animated in his performance but endearingly self-effacing as he thanked the crowd for showing up early to hear only the band’s “second ever U.S. show”. If Mallory Knox were at all nervous, it didn’t show in their onstage demeanour. All five band members were lively and self-assured, and they beamed with pride at the overwhelmingly positive audience response. After their set, I overheard several young ladies whispering about sneaking out to the merch table to meet the “cute English boys”, so I suspect Mallory Knox may have already won over at least a few new American fans.

Mallory Knox at Marquee Theatre 24 Jan 2015

The second support act of the evening was Boston, Massachusetts rock band PVRIS, which according to frontwoman Lyndsey Gunnulfsen is pronounced as “Paris”. PVRIS is a darker, more synth-oriented rock band who released their latest single ‘St Patrick’ last summer ahead of their debut full-length album ‘White Noise’, which came out in November 2014. It was ‘St Patrick’ that generated the most excitement among the crowd, after earlier hits ‘Fire’ and ‘White Noise’ sparked mild recognition.

PVRIS at Marquee Theatre 24 Jan 2015

The band apparently had some technical difficulties in the transition between Mallory Knox’s set and their own, and a missed lighting or sound cue made the start of their set awkwardly anti-climactic. Gunnulfsen attempted to draw the crowd back in by prefacing every chorus of every song with the interjection “put your hands up”, and her audience did oblige, but her annoyance with the tech glitches was evident, and overall PVRIS’ set was a bit listless after the fresh ebullience of Mallory Knox.

PVRIS at Marquee Theatre 24 Jan 2015

There was a lengthy delay after PVRIS finished playing, as the tech crew began the elaborate set up process for the first headliner, Pierce the Veil. During the transition, I decided to move from my central spot on the main floor and find a position in front of the soundboard, where the sloped floor would give me a better sight line and where I hoped I could avoid the crush of sweaty strangers invading my personal space.

Pierce the Veil at Marquee Theatre 24 Jan 2015

I will admit here that I don’t know a single song by either Pierce the Veil or Sleeping with Sirens, and I was completely unable to catch a song title or even a snippet of lyrics in either set, except for the oft-dropped F-bombs. By the time Sleeping with Sirens came onstage, I had moved even farther to the back of the venue and found myself standing among a group of stunned, bleary-eyed parents who were waiting for their adolescent offspring to finish moshing/passing out/puking on the general admission floor. But once again, I must commend the Marquee Theatre for its sound quality, even so far removed from the stage. Both the visual effects and the sound were excellent throughout the venue, and the fans who remained upright were clearly able to enjoy the performances from all vantage points.

Sleeping with Sirens at Marquee Theatre 24 Jan 2015

The contrived, trying-so-hard-to-be-punk atmosphere of the show (commercially sponsored by Rockstar Energy Drink) was a bit too much for me in the end, but the opening support slot was unquestionably a huge opportunity for an on-the-rise band like Mallory Knox. Having already headlined their own UK tour as well as supporting bands like Don Broco and Biffy Clyro, Mallory Knox have clearly honed their live skills over the course of releasing their two LPs. Their style straddles the line between alternative rock and post-hardcore punk, and with the exposure provided by this support slot, their natural onstage charisma could easily win them legions of new fans among both genres.

Mallory Knox will be on tour in America with Pierce the Veil and Sleeping with Sirens through the 4th of March. They are scheduled to appear at Southampton’s Takedown Festival on the 7th of March . A full listing of live shows can be found on Mallory Knox’s official Web site. PVRIS will visit the UK and Ireland in April, taking on a support slot with Lower Than Atlantis; you can find those dates here.

 

Live Review: Vance Joy with Jaymes Young at Marquee Theatre, Tempe, AZ – 24th November 2014

 
By on Tuesday, 2nd December 2014 at 2:00 pm
 

I think most live music aficionados would agree that the atmosphere of a venue has an effect on the overall gig experience. Normally, that effect is fairly moderate, either a pleasant surprise or a mild annoyance, but in the most extreme cases, venue staff and policies can truly make or break a show. I found out last Monday night that the Marquee Theatre in Tempe, Arizona, is one of those venues that could potentially go either way, even in the course of a single show. In this case, the gig in question featured Australian hit maker Vance Joy, supported by American blues rocker Jaymes Young. Originally scheduled for the more intimate Crescent Ballroom in Phoenix (where I saw The Antlers back in July), the show was upgraded to the larger Marquee Theatre due to the blossoming popularity of Joy’s recent debut album ‘Dream Your Life Away’.

The Marquee Theatre is located just outside of downtown Tempe, itself a suburb of Phoenix. This just-outside-of-downtown location is somewhat inconvenient, as the venue is nestled into an awkward spot at the intersection of the Salt River, the Tempe Light Rail, the Red Mountain Freeway and main downtown thoroughfare Mill Avenue. The Marquee does offer a limited amount of on-site parking, but because I had to make the two-hour drive from Tucson, I didn’t arrive anywhere near early enough to take advantage of it for this sold-out show. Parking and walking back to the venue took close to half an hour, and I passed no fewer than three ticket scalpers as I traversed the three blocks. Once I arrived, I stood in three different lines before entering the building. The first was for a bag search (my packet of gum was confiscated because the venue has just installed new flooring) and a body pat down (no, that’s not a joke). In the second line, I was asked for ID to confirm my age (which apparently has no bearing on my ability to control chewing gum). I then entered the third line to have my ticket scanned and only to discover that, though the venue offered electronic tickets, the staff were unable to scan the QR code on my smartphone. After the slightly annoying delay of having the code manually entered by the unfailingly polite entrance staff, I walked into the venue just as Jaymes Young strummed the first chords of ‘Habits of My Heart’ on his electric guitar.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CDJOP16yNdY[/youtube]

Despite my tardy arrival, I was able to find a spot with a good view, even from the back of the room. One nice thing about the Marquee Theatre is its excellent sight lines and another major plus for the venue is the surprisingly clear quality of the acoustics. I was able to see and hear remarkably well from my place just in front of the sound station. (Unfortunately, my smartphone photos don’t do the sight lines any justice. A new camera is on my holiday wish list!) I can’t speak for what might have gone on nearer to the stage, but in the back of the room, my fellow gig-goers were easygoing and mellow, not at all bothered to push and shove for better position, as there was really no need.

Jaymes Young at Marquee Theatre 24 Nov 2014

The stage and sound set up at the Marquee were definitely favorable for opening act Jaymes Young. He and his two bandmates were able to play a their 7-song set with the benefit of full sound and lighting, which probably kept his r&b-flavoured alt-rock from becoming mere background music for the multitudes of Vance Joy fans. Judging from the occasional squeals and shouts from the crowd, Young had a fair few dedicated fans at the Marquee, and his cover of John Mayer’s ‘I Don’t Trust Myself (With Loving You)’ was a particular favourite. Young and his mates were adept and personable on stage, but their original songs didn’t strike me as particularly special, especially after my recent exposure to English singer/songwriter James Bay. Bay and Young occupy similar niches in the blues rock troubadour market, but Young’s lyrics and vocals pale slightly in the comparison, as does his grey fedora alongside Bay’s trademark floppy headwear. Nevertheless, a quick post-concert listen on Spotify revealed that there might be more to Young’s songwriting than meets the eye (or ear?), and he is now officially on my radar.

Jaymes Young at Marquee Theatre 24 Nov 14

After the brief stage break, Vance Joy’s entrance was surprisingly understated if not actually anti-climactic. He met the enthusiastic applause of the audience with a rather shy smile as he launched into ‘Emmylou’ from his 2013 EP ‘God Loves You When You’re Dancing’. It was an interesting opening choice, as the track doesn’t appear on his hugely successful current LP, but Joy seemed intent on teasing his audience, making us wait to the very end for the songs we already knew and loved.

Vance Joy on the big screen at Marquee Theatre

For the meantime, Joy created a seamless if predictable set list, including 9 of the 13 tracks on ‘Dream Your Life Away’. I was especially pleased to hear ‘Georgia’, which is my personal favorite from the album, while older track ‘Snaggletooth’ garnered nostalgic applause from the members of the audience who were more familiar with Joy’s back catalogue. Joy and his bandmates played a tight, well-rehearsed set, which is to be expected as they near the end of their North American tour, but while the songs themselves were exquisitely performed, they did suffer from a slight lack of spontaneity. Joy himself was reserved on stage, keeping the between-songs conversation to a minimum and for the most part seeming content to stand behind the mic stand and sing. Aside from his guitar and ukulele playing, Joy’s stage movement consisted mostly of marching in place to the more upbeat numbers on the set list. For my money, Joy might do well to let this rather endearing quirk grow into a more natural stage presence to match the relaxed momentum of his music.

Vance Joy with ukulele at Marquee Theatre

Joy did noticeably relax when he started the intro to ‘Riptide’, which received an enormous wave of applause. The energy of the well-known radio hit might have benefited Joy earlier on in the show, as the subdued audience suddenly burst into lively dancing and singing along, and I finally shook off my crankiness about the evening’s earlier events. Joy received a similarly enthusiastic response to current American radio single ‘Mess is Mine’, which closed the set proper. I wondered at that point if Joy would be able to pull off an encore, but there he proved that he had at least one surprise up his sleeve. After an appropriate interval off stage, he and his bandmates reappeared to perform a charming extended version of Ben E. King’s ‘Stand By Me’, with an energetic reprise of ‘Riptide’ in the instrumental bridge.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/uJ_1HMAGb4k[/youtube]

Vance Joy will have plenty of opportunity to polish his onstage manner in the coming months. He will be on tour in America through mid-December before making a run of Australian dates early next year, and he has recently announced a summer 2015 tour of North America in support of Taylor Swift. A complete list of live dates can be found on Joy’s official Web site.

After the cut: Jaymes Young and Vance Joy’s set lists.
Continue reading Live Review: Vance Joy with Jaymes Young at Marquee Theatre, Tempe, AZ – 24th November 2014

 
 
 

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