LIVE REVIEW: Slaves @ O2 Academy, Liverpool – 12th January 2016

Popular music isn’t just about scantily-clad starlets anymore, and every year there’s a new crop of overly-hyped alternative bands whose reach spills into the mainstream. Punk duo Slaves were arguably one of the best of the 2015 bunch. And they’ve definitely had a good year, having had debut album Are You Satisfied? nominated for the prestigious Mercury Prize, resulting in this, their biggest tour ever. And the people of Liverpool have had a long wait for tonight’s gig, postponed for two months due to singer / drummer Isaac Holman injuring his shoulder.

Making that wait a little bit longer are Spring King [7]. Although driven by the incoherent vocals of their four members, it’s a fun set that more than does its ‘warming up the crowd’ job. A circle pit or two even starts. And the likes of City and Let’s Ride are a perfect introduction to the Manchester “art-pop-punks”, who after this have definitely established themselves as ones to watch.

Things take an unexpected turn when Wonk Unit [7] take to the stage, as frontman Alex Johnson professes his love for the city of Liverpool before announcing his plans to fuck the crowd with his mind eyes, to paraphrase. The next half an hour or so is filled with awesome punk, heavier than Spring King’s. And the Academy is treated to a brief summary of each song’s meaning from Roberts, whose direct delivery, not to mention Wonk Unit’s genially out of place trumpet player has the audience chuckling more than anyone anticipated. But the music is what speaks most, and fast and furious jams such as St Lucian Holiday spark chaos in the room that doesn’t really slow down until the set ends.

1,200 people singing We Like To Party by the Vengaboys isn’t exactly what comes to mind thinking of the bands playing tonight, but Slaves [8] have chosen it as their entrance theme and there’s not a single person here thinking it’s a bad decision. Laurie and Isaac (shoulder fixed) jump straight in with loud-and-proud opener Ninety Nine, and from then it’s physically impossible to stay still. ‘Pandemonium’ is probably the only word that could come close to describing the crowd – bodies are being flung all over the room, and three moshpits going at one time is a regular occurrence throughout the hour-and-a-bit set.

Slaves’ discography is the perfect soundtrack for the chaos, mind. A massive Cheer Up London and a furious rendition of crowd favourite Sockets do nothing but fuel the fire, and the singalong to The Hunter is truly magnificent. It’s admittedly a bit one dimensional apart from acoustic break Are You Satisfied? and an utterly breathtaking Sugar Coated Bitter Truth, but to be fair, the execution of Slaves’ forte can’t be faulted. But sadly there’s a minimal amount of banter from the guys themselves. Laurie hardly speaks, and when Isaac does it’s usually to announce song titles or explain a songs meaning (although there’s rapturous applause when he calls a man out for pushing people over in a circle pit).

Five songs before the end, the duo unleash a thunderous White Knuckle Ride, and complete and utter madness breaks out, so much so that it’s far and away the highlight of the night. But it feels like too early a peak and no song afterwards comes close to achieving an amount of greatness achieved in those three-and-a-half minutes. Nonetheless they have more than made a mark on Liverpool, and it’s sure the lads’ live performances will become legendary as their star continues to rise.

Words by Georgia Jackson

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