Review: Slaves – Limelight, Belfast
Opening to a packed room in Belfast’s Limelight may be a daunting feat for many young bands from Dublin’s fair city. However, The Murder Capital seem wholly unfazed by tonight’s proceedings. Hurtling into his second to last song, frontman, James McGovern’s ice cold, aggressive form curls over a monitor as he wedges his percussive sword directly into the gut of his audience for a final thrash.
Brutally post-punk yet suited and booted like the men’s section of the Topshop website, The Murder Capital appear an alarming reach for Joy Division’s sensibilities and Ian Brown’s God complex, and yet something seems to be missing tonight from their admittedly eye-catching displays.
After a quick changeover, the gruesome Kent twosome that the crowd has been waiting for arrive in true Slaves style – bounding onto the stage to the tune of The Venga Boys ‘We Like To Party (The Vengabus).
Slave’s unique delivery has been a major sticking factor in their three-album career; never taking themselves too seriously and sticking the finger up at anyone who does, in equal measure. A few laps of the stage are taken and introductions are made by permanently topless ringmaster Isaac Holman. The lads then launch into ‘Sockets’ from 2015’s debut Are You Satisfied? sending their crowd into a frenzied explosion.
The throwback opening is followed in quick-fire by two tracks from brand new albumActs Of Love And Fear (2018): ‘Bugs’ and ‘Magnolia’, pointing a crooked finger of the general public’s pursuit of mundane perfection. Isaac spews out the track intro factoid ‘Did you know 65% of UK homes contain at least one Magnolia wall? I bet you didn’t’ with as much disdain as a daytime TV quiz show host who knows his life’s work has been for nothing.
Without much pause for breath and sweat already flowing Holman launches into the first of many candid ‘speakers corner’ style rants, reminding his crowd of the irksome comments which plagued the band early in their career. “Where’s your fucking bassist?”, he exclaims as bleached blonde sidekick Laurie violently gyrates in protest. Clever, if not slightly over-rehearsed, the monologue leads the pair into a forceful rendition of ‘Fuck The Hi-Hat’, tonights first swipe at 2016’s Take Control.
As a duo, Slaves make a serious barrage of sound which is in part due, of course, to Laurie Vincent’s mixture of sludgy guitar lines, piercing bass antics and that special quality that brings each tune it’s unique Slaves punch. Setlist highlights of ‘Cheer Up London’, ‘Are You Satisfied’ and ‘Where’s Your Car, Debbie?’ are an impressive list which gleam of trademark comical hostility.
However, it’s hard to watch Slaves without at times wincing in fear and respect at the sheer velocity with which Holman brutalises his standing kit. Taking the time to appreciate his brother in arms, Laurie steps forward to shower Holman’s unwavering dedication; confessing to the audience that two nights previous the drummer had split his middle and index fingers ‘down to the bone’. Holman’s steely exterior melts away for a second as he embraces his friend before launching into the next attack.
Close-to-closing number, ‘Photo Opportunity’, gives a glimpse into how fame has beaten, bruised and scrutinised the duo. A softer lament than any track that proceeds it, Laurie dons his acoustic guitar to reveal a heart firmly placed upon their collective sleeve. ‘Oh what are you trying to do to me? This is not a photo opportunity’ sings Holman in probably the most sincere moment of the night from the showman.
Ending the night on 2015’s ‘The Hunter’ – quite literally as Laurie hurtles his guitar into his towering amp leaving it suspended upside down – Slaves exit stage left leaving their audience sweaty and content.