support Mallory Knox
author PP date 22/03/13 venue Brixton Academy, London, UK

Finch may have only recorded two studio albums during their career, but their debut album "What It Is To Burn" is widely considered to be one of the most influential emo records of all time; it is to the new millennium what Texas Is The Reason's "Do You Know Who You Are?" was to the 90s. A decade has passed since its original release, which was a cataclysmic event that catapulted the second wave of emo into mainstream recognition for the first time in its history. To celebrate the ten-year anniversary, Finch decided to reunite for a series of shows on both sides of the pond where they would be performing the album from start to finish for the very first (and probably last) time.

Mallory Knox

Having a supporting slot for such a remarkable event is a coveted chance for any a band, so we could have reasonably expected big name support, but it is only suitable that the duties were given to two relatively new local bands who grew up listening to this album and credit its release as one of the reasons they formed in the first place. The first one I missed as they started earlier than I expected, so apologies for the lack of review for them. But the main support slot was designated to Mallory Knox, whose post-hardcore fueled alternative rock has been causing waves within the British scene for a while now. They bring before us tonight an energetic, bouncy performance that draws its influence from both seminal Britons in Funeral For A Friend just as well as from Finch's material. Their singer has a great voice that fills up the entirety of the nearly sold out 5,500-capacity Brixton Academy, even though most people seem oblivious to who the band are in the first place. They alternative between more dynamic, driving songs that rely mostly of solid riffs, and on more catchy, almost pop-punkish tracks whose choruses sink into the crowd very effectively. It's safe to say they'll have found a number of new fans from the curious onlookers who turned up early, even though there isn't much movement in the crowd otherwise. They have good energy and good songs, but just as almost any band would in these circumstances, the crowd is clearly here for one band and one band only: Finch. Luckily the band recognizes this fairly quickly and take every opportunity to give brief accolades to the band and to let everyone here know how equally excited they are to see them again tonight.



It's funny how it is with the albums that helped to shape your musical self years, even decades ago. I can't recall the last time I would've listened to "What It Is To Burn" aside from a couple of brief reminder-type sessions in the days leading up to the concert, but yet I discover myself, alongside about 5,500 others averaging in their mid 20s, remembering pretty much every single lyric that I learned back when the album was released in 2003 before singer Nate Barcalow delivers them. Every riff, every line, and every brilliantly timed scream comes to us collectively as if from muscle memory, which is why you can sense the anticipation from the opening intro riffs of "New Beginnings", and why it comes as no surprise that the venue transforms into a thunderous sing along from the very beginning. If there's a clean vocal lyric, you can pretty much count on not hearing Nate at all as the crowd's roar drowns his voice completely. Even the screamed lyrics receive considerable backing from the crowd, so when we reach explosive material like "Project Mayhem" and "Grey Matter", it gives him considerable room to kneel over to scream in agony, to make his way to the barrier, to storm across the stage or whatever else he deems appropriate for the moment. At the same time, the rest of the band starts the show by crashing into each other with the guitarist literally rolling on the floor from the first song; everyone else proceeds to jump up and down, climb the side amps, et cetera. They bring exactly the kind of energy you want to see from a band playing one of your favorite albums even 10 years after its release.

Footage of the entire show in great sound quality

"Even back at our peak we wouldn't have played this venue, so thank you all for coming out tonight", Nate says, effectively underlining that tonight's performance is the largest Finch show in the history of the band. The remark is even more significant when you note that in his wording, Nate even admits that the band had a peak and then kind of withered away, which is what happened in reality given the disappointing sophomore album "Say Hello To Sunshine". While not terrible, it was not the follow-up people wanted for "What It Is To Burn", so the band choose not to air any extra songs from this album nor from the following self-titled EP that was released a couple of years later before their hiatus. Instead, the encore consists of even older songs from the earliest Finch EPs, as well as a number of unreleased songs from their third album that never came to be (which can, however, be found on the internet through questionable means). These are, quite frankly, terrible. The solo semi-acoustic performance by Nate right after the encore kills the mood at the venue, although not by as much as the next three tracks do. The old track, "Waiting" if I recall correctly, is one of the first Finch songs ever written and is basically from before they realized their potential in songwriting to put it nicely. The new tracks, however, basically function as a metaphor for why they broke up, which is why it is important to air them tonight as a way of implicit explanation for all their fans. They showcase a band that had run out of ideas, one that wanted to move into a very different direction from their roots, so the deafening silence that meets the band versus the quite frankly ridiculously sing alongs from the album songs is somehow a fitting end to the Finch chapter. It does kill the vibe totally, though, and so the title track "What It Is To Burn" isn't the chaotic end-it-all spectacle that many had expected it to be.

What's more is that hearing the album played from start to finish live really exposes bare its strengths and weaknesses. The first seven or eight tracks are incredible mostly because the album is front-loaded with their strongest and most memorable material, but the second half of the album (with the exception of "What It Is To Burn" of course) are less well-received for two obvious reasons: one, they aren't as good as the rest of the album, and subsequently they are less popular. But that being said, seeing songs like "Perfection Through Silence" and "Post Script" played exactly as they were on the album with perfect sound and with deafening sing alongs absolutely made it a worthwhile flight from Copenhagen to London for the weekend. Not even the lame, Windows Media Player style visualization screen behind the band could detract from that celebratory mood omnipresent at the venue tonight, especially since Nate's screams are every bit as heart-wrenching as they are on the album. Sadly, no surprise guest appearance from Daryl Palumbo at any point, but we can live with that. So while the overall experience suffers from the lame encore and the relative weakness of the second half of the album, as a whole the show had its great moments and was a good way to finish the Finch chapter for now.

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