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Live Photos + Review: Sleaford Mods - The Powerstation, Auckland

Live Photos + Review: Sleaford Mods - The Powerstation, Auckland

Photography by Gareth Shute / Review by Taylor MacGregor / Monday 2nd March, 2020 8:51AM

As someone who spends too much time immersing myself in news of the political disappointments of the world and drunkenly discussing plans of attack to fix this shitshow, I feel like I’m squarely in the target market for Sleaford Mods’ nihilist working class barkings. Making their first appearance in New Zealand off the back of their latest album Eton Alive and a just-announced new compilation All That Glue, there was a tense excitement in the sold out Powerstation crowd to see the duo of Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearn in action.

First up though for punters they got a taste of Auckland two piece Tooms. Their petulant harmonies and driving drums and bass combo have been a fixture in K Road haunts and it was a real pleasure to see them on a big stage quickly winning over a crowd of new fans. Drummer Dorian Noval’s facetious opening remark of “Hello, we’re Tool” and fond retelling of the time she made eye contact with David Duchovny, during his questionable 2018 Powerstation show, were aloof interludes to what was otherwise a snarling set that dipped in and out of the abrasive punk energy of ‘Rats’ and a sludgy metal streak that runs through ‘The Triffids’ and ‘Doom’.

There’s something endearing about bassist and singer Nich Cunningham’s every-man vocals and the syncopated snarly interjections of Noval make for an intricate song structure that still oozes ‘fuck off I don’t care’ energy. Ending with their ode to the existential crisis of Schrodinger’s Cat was a nice segue into what was to come.

After a long (and I must say very well air-conditioned) intermission listening to classic songs and mixes by Andrew Weatherall played in tribute to the passing of the legendary DJ / producer / remixer, Sleaford Mods finally made it to the stage. And look, frontman Williamson is an iconic performer, but let’s be honest – seeing producer Fearn idle on to stage, a very genuinely chuffed smile on his face, beer in hand, and parking up behind his laptop ready to only as required press spacebar on his incredible post-punk dance-adjacent tracks was a thing of beauty. As the night went on, the traditionally lead-footed Capos of the Auckland Punk Family I stood with danced their little socks off. A shining review in itself of Fearn’s genre elusive beats.

With his straight-man sidekick in position, Williamson quickly takes the limelight with his signature drunk toddler doing Mick Jagger aesthetic. When he’s not stationed at his mic in profile emitting a even mist of spittle, like one of those fly spray robots in your kitchen, he struts and pirouettes around the stage with a frustrated energy. Even if there was any want to restrain himself, there's simply no room to not tell that poser to “fuck off twat” in ‘The Committee’, or concede that “I work my dreams off for two bits off ravioli and a bottle of Smirnoff under a manager that doesn’t have a clue” in ‘Fizzy’.

The pitched up BPM of ‘Jolly Fucker’ worked the crowd into a churn and the sing-a-long to “You’re just saying it all to look good!” on ‘Kebab Spider’ was one of many collective cathartic moments for the crowd, who were living through Williamson’s unabashed ability to say the things you’ve always wanted to, with a charming menace most of us can’t pull off.

‘Jobseeker’ is a certified banger that also somehow feels like the musical equivalent of the next Ken Loach film to make me cry. The purgatory loop of trying to find work “desperately clutching onto a leaflet on depression supplied to me by the NHS” hits hard. Williamson manically jumps between sounding like a football hooligan, a bureaucratic Dalek and a condescending Aunt. It’s chaos. Listen to this one. All the time.

The closer of ‘Tweet, Tweet, Tweet’ leans into a more irreconcilable rage where others have tended into snarkiness. “Fuck England. Fuck my country. Lob it in the bin.” In the wake of Brexit, the emergence of Tommy Robinson / Nigel Farage / Dominic Cummings types, Boris Johnson and all the shitty things he’s done and yet to do, this one feels like a suitably anarchic burn it to the ground moment for the Sleaford Mods to finish on. It feels good to hear it.

The fact that Williamson and Fearn can hold a crowd for over an hour of what is really quite dense lyrical content is pretty incredible. He’d probably hate to be called it, but Williamson to me is a performance poet in the ilk of John Cooper Clarke or NZ’s own Dominic ‘Tourettes’ Hoey. With the energy of Fearn’s drum loops and post-punky bass lines, the whole performance is elevated to something pretty special.

There is an authentic rage to Sleaford Mods. But it doesn’t feel like a call to arms in some great Class War. More an empathetic performance on behalf of the people who have worked too hard for not much in return, suffered under Austerity measures or shit healthcare systems or Brexits, had to deal with pricks who know better but don’t, and the mutual fatigue of just getting by however you can. Looking around the predominantly middle aged and probably-doing-okay-for-themselves punters, I hoped that Sleaford Mods might have reignited a bit of fight into a crowd of old punks, who might not have seen something so capital 'P' punk in a long while. – Taylor MacGregor

Click on the thumbnail pics below to view a full gallery of Gareth Shute's photos of Sleaford Mods and supports Tooms in action at The Powerstation on Friday...

Sleaford Mods
Sleaford Mods
Sleaford Mods
Sleaford Mods
Sleaford Mods
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