Live Review: Sleaford Mods – Liverpool

Sleaford Mods

2nd March 2019, o2 Academy, Liverpool

Words & Photos: Gary Lambert

Walking through Liverpool city centre back to my car after seeing a devastating performance by Sleaford Mods at the o2 Academy Liverpool, I come to the conclusion that watching this unlikely duo somehow enhances the senses in the same way that walking to the bathroom during the night with the light off makes you able to hear the axe murderer walking downstairs and find that upturned plug to stand on. The horrors of modern life in a city centre are all to clear as people find their way to make the shite they have to deal with on a daily basis seem more manageable or, more likely, numbed to their mind.

From the homeless guys outside the supermarket setting up their cardboard, sleeping bags and blankets with military organisation; the woman suggesting to a young couple that they stop canoodling at the table outside the pub as she is “on the disability” so needs the seats as she’s “pissed enough to fall”; and the pregnant woman crying sad drunken tears being held up by a loving partner. There are stories at every tangent, in every glance, and yet there are so many of them that most of the time walking through a town or city on a Saturday night they blend together into a sad blur of cliché like the inner city version of the countryside flashing past a Virgin Pendolino’s window.

John Paul

Opening up for Sleaford Mods was John Paul. The man with the papal name came with the description of “the natural progression to Sleaford Mods” according to my research. Well I didn’t think it was possible to streamline the approach of the duo, but John Paul’s one-man assault on the ears backed with his iPhone and a four pack of Guinness does just that. Looking like a character from Phoenix Nights, I was worried that we were going to be treated to that most irritating of ideas, comedy music. My worries were assuaged though as the soloist took on the modern world with aggressive mix of beats and vitriol like Arthur Scargill mixed with Grandmaster Flash.

 

The post-punk delights of Liines were a brilliant palette cleanser between the minimalist opener and only-slightly-less-minimalist headliner. I can honestly say that in over twenty years of gig going, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a support band generate such a roaring reaction from someone else’s audience by the end of their set. It was incredible how much the Liverpool crowd took to the three piece from the other end of the East Lancashire Road, you could see from the look on the faces of the band members as they beamed saying goodbye. Why? A sheer musical tour de force.

Liines

Usually I would liken a band’s performance to a similar band, but Liines were Liines. It was so powerful that my mind went blank, and the set flashed along in the blink of an eye. They were tight, intoxicating, and demanded to be straight on my Spotify on the way home. How Liines have previously escaped my awareness I don’t know, but once I figure that out I’m not letting a band like this slip through again.

 

Last time Sleaford Mods played their own gig in Liverpool it was the kind of night which, three years later, people mention as an “I was there” event. The only reason why this gig will not be one of those nights is that nobody really has an “I was there” at an Academy show. Despite having become musical social media’s version of the old man tormented by kids playing knock and run, Sleaford Mods have grown younger with experience as their music is now kinda-danceable and fun despite the depressing subject matter. Admittedly, it’s fun like a bare-knuckle boxing match rather than a trip to Alton Towers, but it’s fun nevertheless. I mean songs like ‘TCR’ can almost be sung along to. Almost that is if there was actually any singing done by Jason Williamson rather than rapid fire sarcasm spitting as he twitches, struts and swirls around the stage looking like Michael Fassbender on a bad trip.

Sleaford Mods

On the other hand, Andrew Fearn and his all-important MacBook seems to have been fashioned into the happiest man on earth, grinning as he moves along to the music they have created, occasionally choosing a new track and throwing a thumbs up. They are the musical Penn and Teller, and the grim streets of Brexit Britain are their Las Vegas, at once a home, a playground and an inspiration.

Top marks to the duo for using a pre-recorded version of the kazoo on recent release ‘OBCT’ too. I have a zero-tolerance policy towards the kazoo at gigs. If anybody plays one, I’m walking out. And I desperately did not want to head towards the exit until I really had to.

Sleaford Mods were amazing, and I was there.

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