This Sleaford Mods article was written by Mat Taylor, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Natalie Whitehouse

Sleaford Mods have been making headlines for a couple of years with their outspoken views on everything from other bands to the prime minister but they have been steadily releasing their genre defying, angry music since 2006. Billed as their first proper “posh tour” this trip around the UK started in Manchester at the Ritz, which was almost at capacity by the time the Nottinghamshire based duo took to the stage.

Accompanying Sleaford Mods was a well selected offering of obscure, aggressive, spoken word acts that made this very different from your average gig. First up was Mark Wynn, who walked on to the stage and started drawing on his arm in black marker pen as he shouted and mumbled in to a microphone over a backing track of distorted sounding jangly guitars. As he shouted and mumbled aggressive poetry over noisy, pre-recorded backing tracks, his slight frame and perhaps deliberately awkward stage presence were intriguing enough to draw a small crowd from the early arrivals at the Ritz. When somebody in the crowd shouted something uninspired and unhelpful, Mark responded brilliantly with “I’m getting three hundred quid for this, pal.” 

The cheers from the crowd only added to the silenced heckler’s blushes and attracted a few more interested people towards the stage. There were moments of hilarious genius, including songs about flu, a tiara and a shirtless rant but there were also a lot of uncomfortable silences and puzzled faces as nobody in the audience seemed very sure what they were watching.

Next up was Steve Ignorant’s Slice of Life, which features a former member of the legendary UK punk outfit, Crass. Steve walked on stage and cut through any pomp and circumstance by welcoming the growing crowd with a speech about the recent news coverage of the immigration crisis. Calling for compassion and offering to physically fight supporters of UKIP or other right wing parties, Slice of Life made their agenda clear from the start.

The crowd seemed slightly uneasy at the sheer rawness of it all in places, but that may well be the whole point of this type of performance. When he told a story about visiting a children’s home and offered a heart warming and genuine thank you to people who work in support roles, the crowd reacted with a huge cheer. Even if you don’t appreciate his music, this level of passion and honesty is rare in music and although slightly uncomfortable viewing in places, it was extremely refreshing to see.

Graciously introducing his talented backing band, Steve is clearly not interested in the fame element that comes with making music for a living and seems genuinely thankful to be on stage. Watching his emotional, thought provoking and often disturbing mixture of monolog and song was difficult at times and incredibly easy at others. His observations and criticisms are unassailable and his delivery is dripping in enthusiasm but due to the horrific nature of some of the subject matter in the performances, a lot of the material here will leave a lasting bitter taste.

As Andrew and Jason took to the stage, the crowd roared with anticipation. Since their humble beginnings Sleaford Mods’ reputation has grown beyond their minimal stage show and they are now all over national newspapers, courtesy of their abrasive but intelligent commentary on everything from spirit crushing office work to political failures. As soon as he took to the stage, Jason made a loud and expectedly crude reference to our prime minister’s embarrassingly public porcine predicament before ranting his way through their wryly titled ‘Key Markets.’

To somebody coming to see Sleaford Mods for the first time, you would be forgiven for thinking that an angry man from the midlands shouting over his friend’s laptop produced beats might not really constitute “proper” music. It’s easy to forget that Jason can actually sing well when he chooses to, and, hearing the large crowd singing along to ‘Little Ditty’ and ‘Jolly F*cker’ was a heartening testament to how passionate the band’s following are about their music.

Although the crowd were mainly still or just nodding their heads, there were occasional outbreaks of fevered moshing among the first few rows, and pockets of manic dancing around the rest of the venue. Jason’s own dancing was strangely mesmerising: He shuffled from side to side, his feet kicking out left and right while the rest of his body remained largely motionless. It’s almost as if he’s hovering while he delivers his brutally honest sermons on the grittier side of modern life.

A lot of overtly political music can be bereft of humour but thankfully Sleaford Mods’ self deprecating jibes and wry commentary mean the tone doesn’t stay too serious for too long. One brilliant ad lib saw Jason miming the actions of hoovering while belting out an insanely camp version of Queen’s ‘I Want To Break Free’ in the middle of the exceptional anti-office banter anthem ‘Fizzy.’

Judging by the crowds’ reaction and the huge grins on the bands’ faces, this was one of the evening’s many high points. The crowd were also impressively vocal during recent single, ‘No One’s Bothered,’ and the bitterly critical lament of the aftermath of the financial crisis ‘Face To Faces.’

Bands that don’t use live instruments can often seem lost on a big stage but Sleaford Mods mixture of lo fi beats and confrontational vocals filled the room with an energetic sense of aggression that was just on the right side of hostile. Closing the set with the anthem for the unemployed ‘Jobseeker’ sent the crowd into a frenzy as they screamed along to the contemporary fairy tale of jobless woe.

Leaving the stage for what seemed like a cursory break and a quick wipe down (Jason in particular was drenched by the end of the show) they returned to perform their latest single ‘Tarantula Deadly Cargo,’ followed by the biting critique of all things social media related, ‘Tweet, Tweet, Tweet.’ Although the irony of hundreds of smart phones recording the spectacle in front of me was painfully apparent, Sleaford Mods are still one of the most exciting bands you can see at the moment.

Sleaford Mods - The Ritz, Manchester (23rd September 2015) - LIVE REVIEW

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