Live Review: Anchor Lane with support from Empyre and The Mezz at The Craufurd Arms, Milton Keynes on 15-02-23

Written By and Photos by: DARRON EDWARDS

Do your ears and eyes a favour and go to see them play!

The Craufurd Arms in Milton Keynes is a staple on the touring scene for many of the bands gracing the pages and radio of ERB. It has a long history with rock music and has seen some of the best in the business go through its doors over the past six decades. It continues to support new and upcoming bands, as tonight’s show will surely prove. One more thing before I tell you all about the bands, thanks to the sound engineer for a fantastic sonic experience – if you’ve been impressed by the sound at a show go and thank the engineer, they are a crucial part of your enjoyment.

It’s a school night (well, half-term for many) and the bar is slow to fill before the doors open, but they are trickling in, fans sporting their heroes’ t-shirts and heavily patched jackets, eager to get the entertainment underway.

First up are The Mezz, a new band on me, this four-piece hailing from Oxford are charged with building the atmosphere. The band have youth and style on their side, resplendent in fine silky shirts and with swagger full of intent. Often a difficult job the opening slot, they hit stage hard with Ransom Notes … mixing indie sensibilities and a dose of pop-punk, there is energy plentiful enough to fill a bigger room and those present are soon tapping their toes and nodding their heads.

When I Found You and Town Boy follow on, frontman and guitarist Ben Comley dances across the stage, driving the performance forward. The rest of the band is equally as animated throughout and is made up of Joe Wastie on guitar, George MacLean on bass, with the beat drummed deftly and with delicacy by Charlie Emmons.

Chasing Love is the band’s (and our) chance to catch a breath and bring things down; more sedate swaying and nodding along to a country lilt running through the song. Jump to Fly is their latest release, uplifting and a song you need to dance to … maybe a damp Wednesday in MK just isn’t the time, a big shame as it deserved more from the crowd.

Tonight is the live debut for Stars, and is then followed by the raucous romp that is Little Renegades. It’s “all about getting fucked up with friends on a Saturday night”, we are informed by Ben. He then proceeds to do his best mountain climber impression and tops the speaker stack, with the treat of a precarious solo.

All my Love closes out their set, I’m left wanting to see these guys again, but definitely at a weekend in a crowded room, to get the full experience.

Catch the guys in March at the Reading University Students Union or the Purple Turtle, you’ll love it!

Empyre are up next and are here to give a wholeheartedly different performance than anyone who has seen them before will be very familiar with. The more laidback stage presence suits their blend of atmospheric, arena-ready rock. Singer and guitarist Henrik Steenholdt lets us know that all the tracks tonight will be from the forthcoming Relentless album, giving us a taste of set numbers to come in future shows.

Title track Relentless is a floor shaking set opener that Empyre fans are familiar with, and they are singing along already. They’ve all moved to the front, to get the up close and personal experience we all crave from a gig. Silent Screaming follows and then Hit and Run, which are ethereal and driving rock tunes played with real skill by Did Coles on guitar, Grant Hockley on bass and Elliot Bale on drums.

Forget Me has the familiar hallmarks of an Empyre tune with layers and layers of guitar, bass and drums plumbing the depths of the ocean; pushing it all along. The final song of the set is Waking Light, which looks to be the band’s next single. Henrik abandons his guitar, grabs the mic and owns the stage, pulling the audience into their world. You’ll not end up in a sweaty mess watching an Empyre show, but if anthemic, vast sounds are your thing, then grab the chance to see them at a festival or more intimate show later this year.


We close out the night with Glasgow’s finest sons Anchor Lane, currently in the middle of a nationwide tour to promote their recently released album Call This a Reality? Tonight’s show is the last headlining appearance for a bit, but singer/guitarist Conor Gaffney assures me, after the show, that there will be more headline dates to follow soon. The three-piece powerhouse deliver a modern, hard edged and energetic sound that is completed by good use of backing tracks to make their sound expansive and to fill the bottom end where the bass player might once have been.

Stutter’opens after the intro track and the guys instantly lay down a statement of intent with huge energy and use of the stage; it surprises me they don’t fall into each other! Conor picks up his guitar for Ministry, a head bobbing foot stomper.

Call this a Reality? has lead guitarist Lawrence O’Brien dancing across the stage between crisp guitar licks and the discordant solo. His unique guitar sound is sometimes like an ancient and long lost bastard child of the bagpipes and a Gibson getting it together (IMHO). We go back to the first album with Honey, dirty and heavy riffs and choruses intersected with only slightly lighter shades during the verses, and a drum beat handled with aplomb by Graeme Newbury.

Lawrence is introduced for Nitroglycerin, and he wastes no time in bounding about the stage, headbanging like his life depended on it and he had Slayer playing in his ears.

I’ve been Waiting edges us towards the end of the night, but there’s still time to get the crowd clapping along and the lights display the Saltire to remind us where the band are from. Both Blood and Irony and Stone Cold Hearted are diversions through the back catalogue to the 2020 Casino album and a pre-mohawk Conor. The latter song is a more bluesy affair, bringing the mood down to that of a seedy dive bar and giving us a short respite in the proceedings.

The Mischievous Song gives the audience time to sing along and we are in fine voice, with even the back of the room making their voices heard! Choke is a real anthem, in the vein of The Virginmarys or Royal Blood, and I hope the band doesn’t mind the comparison. These guys are at the forefront of the new rock sound and deserve your attention and listening time. Fame Shame follows, a punk vibe fit for the ‘20s that has a classic rock breakdown and solo that doesn’t feel at all at odds with what has come before.

The band needs a wee breather so take time to introduce us all to Graeme on drums, Lawrence on guitar and Conor on vocals and guitar … just enough time to catch one deep breath before we take off again with Electric Karma. Sycophant Disorder brings us back to the new album and is dark and heavy. The last song of the evening is another power drill of a song, I don’t have Another Soul to Pour, and is also the closing track from Call this a Reality?

This is the first headline set I’ve seen from Anchor Lane, and they’ve crafted an authentic experience that shows they are ready to take a step up and give us these performances as often as we’ll have them. Do your ears and eyes a favour and go and see them play, buy their music and merch, or I’ll track you down and have some questions to ask.


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