LIINES & Sleaford Mods: Hull Asylum 07/03/19 – live review

Over to Asylum on the Hull University campus for LIINES and Sleaford Mods and I’ll admit to an almost childish level of excitement. They’re both bands I’ve read a lot about, listened to a lot but never seen live and they both have a reputation for excellent live shows.

There’s been plenty written about Manchester trio LIINES in recent months and the most common description used of their sound is powerful post punk. This description seems to have the blessing of the band themselves so I’ll go with it.

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They’re not your usual ppp exponents though. It’s a genre that often favours brute force over subtlety but LIINES have a deft touch that makes a refreshing change with some remarkably subtle bass from Steph Angel blending with Leila O’Sullivan’s incendiary drumming. Add some remarkably controlled vocals from singer/guitarist Zoe McVeigh and the nearest comparison is to Sleator Kinney although McVeigh reminds me a lot of Kristin Hersh, which in our house is considered to be no bad thing.

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This isn’t to say that they don’t have the raw energy we love, they’ve got that in bucketloads, it’s just that LIINES have other stuff too. If you haven’t crossed paths with them yet then check our Shallow on You Tube – https://youtu.be/C_EqNF2IyzE – two and a quarter minutes of excellence.

Once LIINES have cleared up their stuff it doesn’t take long to get the stage ready for Sleaford Mods. Andrew Fearn, the provider of the beats sets up his laptop on a box and takes up the position behind it, nonchalantly swigging beer from a bottle. He looks amused and once he is joined by Jason Williamson there’s a huge roar from a crowd for whom this is the first chance to hear live the material from the new album Eton Alive. They waste no time on trivia and launch straight into Into The Payzone. It’s a bitter and rage fuelled as you’d expect and that goes for most of the rest of the set too.

Like I said, it’s my first visit to the Sleafords live, although I’ve been listening to the new album, Eton Alive, on rotation for a couple of weeks. After English Tapas it didn’t seem like they could go much darker and bleaker but they’ve managed it. I’ve expecting some rage, in fact a lot of rage, and I’m not disappointed in that respect but what I’m not prepared for is the extraordinary delicacy of Williamson’s performance, both in respects of vocals and choreography.

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I had imagined him standing motionless at a microphone and bellowing but he is altogether more watchable than that, in fact he is seldom at rest, skipping on tiptoe across the stage, delicately raising and turning his foot on each step so that it touches the opposite knee. It gives him a strangely balletic gait, making him look like an angry Mr Tumnus.

It is customary to talk about the Mods as being a political band but in fact there’s relatively little actual political content in their songs, other than Policy Cream. They’re pissed off and they’re bitter having a moan about stuff but they’re not offering any detailed critique or possible solutions.

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And while they’re undeniably angry there’s much more to their performance that. Williamson manages to convey an extraordinary depth of vulnerability, even on Bang Someone, even when he’s crouching and hurling repeated expletives into the floor, he seems remarkably unhappy and unthreatening. He looks like somebody the police would taser first and ask questions about later.

They’re surprisingly funny too, particularly on subjects like it being safe to let children play with white dogshit, tolerance of hipsters and the joy of getting one over on the council by having an extra brown bin.

There’s plenty of old favourites, including TCR (I had one of those) and BHS (Hull had one of them). Ah those were the days. There’s a lot of melancholy and nostalgia in their set and we end up with Tied Up In Nottz, which pretty much brings the house down.

A great show, full of surprises and their music won’t ever sound quite the same again.

More images in nicer quality at LIINES | Sleaford Mods

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The Stranglers at Scunthorpe Baths Hall

Tuesday night in Scunthorpe and the Baths Hall is pretty well full for a visit from The Stranglers, a band who, after nearly forty-five years in the business are still touring regularly and who as far as live performances go, seem to be riding a wave. It’s chilly out but inside the crowd is warming up nicely.

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Support comes from the always excellent Dr Feelgood although we may have to cut them some slack on this particular night because vocalist Robert Kane is proper poorly. Rather than cancel the show he transfers much of his vocal duties to guitarist Steve Walwyn and the result is a show which, if not peak Feelgood, (and how long could we argue about just when that was?), is still a very fine slice of crunchy rock and blues. Even when afflicted the Feelgoods have an energy and panache that many newer bands would do well to emulate. Highlights include Milk And Alcohol, Down To The Doctor and Roxette and they tie things up very nicely thank you with a blistering Route 66. As if we could ever forget Winona. She was great.

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There being no new Stranglers album to promote, not even an addition to their extensive range of archive live performances, theirs is basically a greatest hits show but with hits like these who’s complaining? The band have been on great form for a couple of years now, gathering rave reviews wherever they go.

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Last time I saw them was at The Engine Shed in Lincoln three or four years ago the show was a much more subdued and minimalist affair but this time they’ve invested in some smart looking staging, a backdrop of a tunnel filled with stagnant water and fallen masonry and some spinning air vents which light up from time to time giving the whole thing the feeling of one of those video games where you have to start by escaping through the sewers, fighting rats and goblins on the way. Add some nice lighting effects and it makes for a great show especially since the band are on great form.

Guitarist and vocalist Baz Warne certainly seems up for it, winding up the front rows by observing that the band have never played Scunthorpe befoe and ignoring shouts of “Yes you have”. He then proceeds to take an old joke for a new walk by enquiring how the thorpe got into Scunthorpe and then explaining that it was of course by way of the Vikings, who used it to indicate a settlement or small town. New arrivals could be forgiven for thinking that they have wandered by accident into a local history talk. As for the rest of the name? He shrugs. “Who can say. There’s cunts everywhere.”

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And so the scene is set for an evening of great music and good natured joshing that kicks off nicely with Waltz In Black as an intro, leading into the rough and tumble of Goodbye Toulose.

The legendary Jet Black, although officially a member of the band, no longer tours and on the road drumming duties have been taken up by Jim Macauley who has clearly made a close study of the master’s work because the distinctive patterns and changing time signatures that marked the band out from their contemporaries and rivals are all present and correct.

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Of course what sets The Stranglers apart is the interplay of the swivel hipped JJ Burnel’s melodic basslines and Dave Greenfield’s swirling baroque keyboards. Hidden behind a multi tiered keyboard stack only the top of Greenfield’s head is visible, making him look rather like the entree at one of those restaurants where you eat monkey brains through a hole in the table. He and Burnel are on great form and there is no sense of anyone just going through the motions here. It’s all full on stuff.

As for the highlights, well I wish I was knowledgable enough to pick out a really obscure album track and comment on how it differs from its original incarnation but the truth is I really like Always The Sun, and it’s going to be my favourite at any Stranglers show I go to. I sing it badly and loudly for most of the car ride home.

So there you go. If you get the chance to catch The Stranglers on this tour I’d grab it if I were you because as elder statesmen of the punk generation go, there aren’t many better around.

Images in nicer quality at Dr Feelgood | The Stranglers