Sleaford Mods @ The Forum
This live music review is brought to you by the character *
In March, my mate Rob Davies saw Sleaford Mods at The Bowery District, Reading: capacity 300, it wasn’t full. In June, I photographed them at KOKO, Camden: capacity 1500, sold out. Tonight, they played The Forum, Kentish Town: capacity 2300, sold out again. To say that Andrew Fearn and Jason Williamson of Sleaford Mods (they’re not mods and they’re not from Sleaford) have had an encouraging 6 months would be something of an understatement. “We sold it out, we sold it out, this pair of c*nts sold it out” barked Williamson during the opening number as recognition of the achievement.
And looking around, it’s not hard to see why they are filling ever-expanding venues. It’s an extremely diverse crowd: young, old, middle aged, hipster, banker. I doubt there are many Taylor Swift fans here but aside from that the whole demographic seems to have turned up. Gents outnumber the ladies by a ratio of around 10:1. The Sleaford Mods are probably not ideal first date material, plus I’m guessing that women might be put off by the prospect of being machine-gunned by the ‘C’ word for a solid hour. It’s not a cheap night out, so for obvious reasons there’s also no sign of the abandoned underclass that so much of the material references. I wonder how much that irks the band?
Thankfully, one other thing the material references that there isn’t any of is an undercurrent of violent tension. In fact, the congregation owns a sea of grinning faces and good natured crowd surfing ensues during audience favourites such as Jolly F*cker, Tiswas and Giddy On The Ciggies. The band has been knocking out their brand of post-punk hip-hop since 2007, but their rise in popularity came late and has coincided with a prolific writing period that’s seen three critically acclaimed albums in as many years: 2013’s Austerity Dogs, 2014’s Divide and Exit, and 2015’s Key Markets. Much of the material on the latest record is being played tonight and whilst we’re still being bombarded with profanities, if anybody came here solely to giggle at the four-lettered words, they seriously missed the point. Williamson’s lyrics employ contorted rhymes, humour and word play that I’ve no doubt Ian Dury would doff his cap to were he still alive – and you can’t pay a much bigger compliment than that.
A Sleaford Mods performance does though serve up a contradictory dynamic. Stage left is Williamson: intimidating; growling; stabbing; all twitching hand actions and light on his toes dance moves. The veins in his neck stand so proud you could hang medals off them. The words are snarled with so much violent intent that he frequently gobs across the photo pit. A king cobra would struggle to spit this much venom. He certainly does give off an air of menace. At one point, somebody in the audience throws a full cup of beer (or maybe it wasn’t beer) at the stage. I wouldn’t have done it. Thankfully is misses. Williamson stared back with fire in his eyes: “We all know who you are”.
Meanwhile, stage right is Andrew Fearn, dressed in baseball cap and ‘Beverly Hills 90210’ tee shirt, in what I can only assume is an ironic nod to the sort of saccharine pop-culture that the whole band rails against. He dances to the tunes but his feet are nailed to the floor. His beer won’t be parted from his left hand and his jeans pocket won’t be parted from his right. The status quo only changes when he needs to advance another song on the laptop or crack open another bottle. But there’s no doubt he’s into the music. His eyes are closed, his head rocks, he sings the lyrics to himself.
There’s very little interaction between the two, but clearly some affection between them. At one point, Andrew came across the stage to offer Jason a towel with which to wipe himself down: “Sometimes I forget myself and get a bit too wet, so Andrew comes to help me out”.
They play for exactly one hour, but the songs are so short and so fast that they get through a lot of material. They close out with Jobseeker. An Anthem. The crowd goes nuts and more surfing ensues.
Williamson showed his appreciation as only he does: “You’re the biggest audience we’ve ever had. Give yourselves a round of applause. Thanks for coming out and supporting us two c*nts”. And then he walked off. Fearn hung around to suck up the atmosphere and take a few pictures from the stage. It must have been quite a sight.
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Photography and Review by Sleaford Mods @ The Forum on 2 October 2015 by Simon Reed. Simon has his own great website here: http://www.musicalpictures.co.uk