LIVE REVIEW: Sleaford Mods, Billy Nomates, Son of Dave @ O2 Academy, Newcastle (24.11.21) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Sleaford Mods by Iam Burn

As Son of Dave opening the night with a jangly, skeletal hybrid of sounds, the crowd began to shuffle into the venue. With a stripped-back, almost DIY flair, reminiscent of Seasick Steve, the foot stomping and harmonica wielding opener set an intriguing tone for the night. As his croaky storytelling reaches its end, there was certainly a unique taste left in the mouth, as his rustic fusion of sounds may not be fully refined as of yet, but it definitely sparkled with potential.

Billy Nomates launched herself into a Napoleon Dynamite-style dance routine with each song, the perpetual energy of a giddy child was a jarring contrast to the haggered asthetic of the opening act. As the set list continued, Billy Nomates went from strength to strength, the giddiness became infectious and the energy she provided became all consuming. The music itself may not have been fascinating, but the conviction poured into every moment of stage time was truly compelling. The highlight of the night was the surprise cameo from Jason Williamson, who stumbled on stage for a verse of Billy’s Supermarket Sweep. The charisma Williamson carried in just one verse was electric, the powerful and distinct voice seemed to capture the disgruntled rage of the North perfectly. The verse left me hungry for the night ahead, eagerly anticipating a night of chaotic and compelling tracks.

With this in mind, Sleaford Mods were disappointing. Maybe it was the sincerity in Billy Nomates’ performance or maybe it was the fatigue of the tour, but there was something disingenuous and tired throughout their act. The emotions that are so dangerously potent throughout their catalogue didn’t seem to connect tonight; Williamson wandered aimlessly across the stage, punctuating his rambles with squawks and shrieks. Clutching his mic stand, he rocketed through the band’s arsenal of tracks, stopping only to deliver an occasional quip about the North, money and Newcastle. The songs blurred together pretty quickly, as the same one note was hit with an increasingly more weary impact.

With a sparse set-up, the stage was empty but for the two members and their equipment. The lack of effects and pyrotechnics ties in eloquently with the Sleaford Mods’ brand, as their bare roots appeal is grounded in the resistance to the trappings of fame. Only the show’s lighting, which pulsates through striking neon colours of a 90s nightclub, showed any hint of difference from their early years. Such emptiness leaves enormous space for the band to fill with emotion, character and magnetism, yet throughout the show the stage still felt somewhat empty. From start to finish, there was something earnest lacking from the show, which feels unusual for the band.

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