Photography: Michael Kirkham / @Kirks09

Sleaford Mods

O2 Academy 2/3/19

Watching SLEAFORD MODS is always going to be good: Saturday night, pint in hand, surrounded by the young and middle aged bouncing along, in the hands of a duo whose lyrics comment on the lives of many in Brexit Britain.

Jason Williamson belts out Into The Payzone with fervour, while Andrew Fearn stands nonchalantly behind nodding his head along in approval, kitted out in shorts, cap and Run-DMC T-shirt, sipping occasionally from a bottle of lager. With their division of labour and set up on stage, they could be the 21st Century, more excitable, more mobile, more politically peeved Pet Shop Boys with an attitude that aggravates as well as entertains. And it’s there that any whimsical similarities end. This is a group the treads its own path and tells the tales of those often ignored.

The gig’s packed out and full of energy and, by the third song Subtraction, those less possessive of their pints start jumping about; the ubiquitous mosh pit emerges. The crowd love it: those at the sides guffaw at the well-observed lyrics, while others shout them back to the worldly frontman. The setlist is predominantly comprised of songs from their new album Eton Alive, along with a selection of older favourites, such as TCR and Just Like We Do.

Accompanied on stage by just a microphone stand and laptop, the duo still manage to command the room. If the baseline throbbing through the floor doesn’t grab your attention, Williamson’s skill at delivering the lyrics does. His performance style is impressive, moving from snarky drawl to mania as he inhabits different characters.

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His recall of the lyrics is equally impressive, and his monologues take the form of theatre, especially as he physically changes. His posture and facial expressions create an idea of the imagined characters. When he’s not busy doing that, his various dance moves are a delight to behold: walking around with an imagined hat and cane, a cheeky crotch grab and even giving us a glimpse of the start of a nutty boy walk.

The lyrics are brilliant. They create vivid, pertinent and often hilarious snapshots of life in contemporary Britain with its foibles and failures. They resonate with the feelings of many about where the country is politically and socially at the moment. The lyrics swing from pointed ire with clear targets in songs like BHS, where “the able-bodied vultures monitor and pick at us” and in OBCT where the narrator “passed Oliver Bonas in the Chelsea tractor”, to funny observations on the mundane: “I got two brown bins, should I only have one? But what the council don’t know won’t hurt them” on Policy Cream.

Williamson works himself in to a frenzy. By the end of the night his T-shirt could be rung out and fill up a few of the pint glasses flung around the mosh pit. Fearn meanwhile looks as cool and collected as he did when he came on stage. It’s over far too soon and after an encore, which includes the dynamic Tied Up In Nottz and Discourse, Williamson’s off with a nod, but without a backwards glance, leaving his bandmate to pack up the laptop with a lack of fanfare. It’s all just part of the night’s work.

Sleaford Mods are here to point out the dire times we’re in, in an entertaining, needle-sharp way. Live, they take it all up a notch or two. What’s not to like?

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