Review: Sleaford Mods – Limelight 1, Belfast
No strangers to Belfast, the Nottingham electronic punk duo Sleaford Mods return in support of their new LP Eton Alive – releasing February 22nd.
They’re kicking off the tour here, so we’re the first to get a proper look at the new album. We’ve got an official taste so far with ‘Flipside’ and ‘Kebab Spider’, but the rest is fresh territory. Support for the night came as a complete surprise, announced the day prior as another dirty duo: heavy blues rockers from Lurgan, The Bonnevilles.
There’s a bit of a disconnect between the two acts, obviously, but I’m not complaining. The Bonnevilles kicked it off with an assault of sound, I was at the bar and was promptly arrested by the sudden avalanche of noise. The concave crowd held back, but guitarist and vocalist Andy McGibbon coyly smiled and addressed us: “I know it’s not our gig like but do yous wanna come forward?”. After closing the gap, the crowd eased up and the band delivered a heavy, groovy set. Standouts were ‘No Law in Lurgan’ which got the crowd singing along; and ‘10,000’ which built-up with incredible energy and ended with an honestly impressive yell from McGibbon.
In the in-between, The Bonnevilles’ rather expansive on stage set was stripped away and replaced with three milk crates, a microphone, and a sticker-clad laptop.
Starting off the gig, we were introduced to a few tracks off the new album. An unknown track, ‘Subtraction’, and ‘Flipside’ all got a good reaction. While the first two kept the crowd watching and listening, ‘Flipside’ was recognised and got a bit of chanting. Off the bat the new tracks are a definite departure in regards to the beats, having more synth instrumentation and a deeper, clubbier bass.
The wildly catchy tunes were in full swing, with every so-far released track getting the crowd singing along and yelling the hook. Early on songs in the set such as ‘Just Like We Do’, ‘TCR’, and even the new ‘Kebab Spider’ got the crowds buzzing into a frenzy, singing along with Jason Williamson.
Speaking of the frontman, he was a header with his undies on display. One minute he was rigid in the arms, spitting and flicking with the flow; the next he was twirling like a ballerina around the stage, stopping to grin and twizzle his hands like a madman. One standout moment was after an aggressive delivery – Williamson released the microphone sending it swaying to the edge of collapse. It recovered however, but not before Williamson could begin fearfully boxing the dangerous appliance. Meanwhile Fearn, The Human Metronome, was the complete opposite. He pushed a button to release hypnotic beats, hand in pocket, then bobbed with a beer as his job was done.
One thing that was a shame though, despite it being the standard for gigs honestly, was the difficulty picking up lyrics. With a band like this whose words really have something to say and paint such vivid lived-in pictures, it’s especially unfortunate. It’s even more the case with the new tracks which are getting introduced in this setting. It doesn’t ruin it by any means, but it is a bummer.
There was a bit of a surprise in the crowd during the frantically angry ‘Jobseeker’ which got a very small and quarantined mosh pit going, with an attempt to continue it through to ‘Tied Up in Nottz’. It was sadly shut down when bouncers strolled through and picked a fella up though.
Williamson addressed the new songs, saying “We know there’s a couple of new ones thrown in but we thought we’d try them out here first”. The set ended strongly, if not quickly, by following ‘Tarantula Deadly Cargo’ with another unknown song from the new album. It was an aggressively mesmerising techno track that I look forward to catching when the album is released.
At the end of the day it was a class show, though I’m not really surprised given their reputation. The only downsides really being the difficulty picking out vocals and the rather abrupt ending, but they didn’t soil the experience. Introducing unreleased tracks to a setlist can be tricky, sometimes it can leave you feeling underwhelmed. That wasn’t the case here, the Sleaford Mods pulled off the new tracks seamlessly and it was so easy to get into the flow of them. The Bonnevilles, while at first being worlds apart, set a raging tone that the Sleaford Mods picked up and ran with. In doing that, they played most of the big ones; from ‘BHS’ to ‘Jolly F****r’. All-in-all it was a concise and hypnotically furious gig from some lads I’d be happy to see again.