Sleigh the UK 2012: The Wonder Stuff, Pop Will Eat Itself, Jesus Jones: Leeds – live review

Sleigh the UK 2012: The Wonder Stuff, Pop Will Eat Itself, Jesus Jones
O2 Leeds
22 December 2012

Live review

A trinity of ’90s favourites take to the stage for the Sleigh the UK tour.

I am a massive ’90s throwback. And I’m not sorry. Three quarter length shorts, long sleeve t-shirts, combat trousers, wallet chains and skate shoes are all part of my daily wardrobe.

I’m so ’90s I still consider Stussy to be the very height of fashion. Dreads and a nose ring? Still got ’em. And even the essential tribal tattoo on the leg is there.

So as you can imagine when I saw the line-up for the first ‘Sleigh the UK’ package tour, I was more than a little excited and a ticket was bought without hesitation.

Some may argue that this tour was nothing but nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake but back when ‘indie bands’ ruled the world, a line-up as strong as this would have been all three of the main stage headliners at Reading Festival.

“So tonight I’m gonna party like it’s 1994!”

After meeting gig companion for the evening ‘Mike from ‘uddersfield’ in the hellish surroundings of the Leeds Station Wetherspoons we fought our way through herds of shit-faced office workers and secretaries dressed as ‘slutty Santas’ to the venue, the place formerly known as ‘Leeds Town and Country’ and after a brief wait in the line outside we were in.

The stage was set for Jesus Jones, complete with backdrop and the word’s smallest drumkit. A healthy crowd of 40-somethings was gathered in front of the stage, eager to get on with the nights festivities and about 7.30 the familiar lanky figure of Mike Edwards strolled onto the stage with the rest of the band and tore into set opener “Never Enough” from the stone cold classic “Liquidizer” album of 1989. Well, when I say tore into, they would have done if the deaf sound engineer on the desk had turned everything up to a satifactory level.

Muffled sound, broken samplers and numerous technical difficulties looked like turning the Jesus Jones set into something of a shambles. Luckily everything all worked out and about three songs into the set, they were firing on all cylinders and it was magnificent.

“I notice there’s no shortage of available babysitters in Leeds tonight” observed Mr Edwards in a nod to the advancing years of his audience before apologising for probably not being able to hit the high notes in “Real, Real, Real”. He came very close though!

All the band looked to be having a great time, in particular the bass player who laid down some of the heaviest grooves I’ve heard in years. A special mention has to go to the demented keyboard player who threw his keyboard all over and stomped around the stage in a righteous frenzy. He also sported a splendidly ironic t-shirt that bore the legend “Play the Hits and Fuck Off!” Can’t beat a free-range keyboardist! Genius.

Sadly Jesus Jones only had around 40 minutes set time and after playing the light years ahead of it’s time “Zeroes and Ones” and the still heavy-as-fuck “Info Freako” it was all pretty much over.

Apart from the sound issues at the start, the last band I ever did a full-on stage dive to were as good as I ever remember them being and I was left feeling a burning desire to see them live again as soon as possible. I even gleefully threw £15 over the merch table for a t-shirt, so impressed was I!

One over-priced pint later and it was time for Pop Will Eat Itself. The sheer number of those present wearing Poppies shirts from a time gone by was staggering. In the war of the t-shirt, PWEI were clear winners.

So, can a band with only one original member, an ex-Gaye Byker on Acid and a couple of ringers borrowed from Gary Numan’s live band still be justifiably called Pop Will Eat Itself?
Oh, yes indeed!

I saw the original PWEI more times than can possibly be healthy all those years ago and earlier this year, with some trepidation, I saw this new incarnation play in York where they proved beyond all doubt that if you ramp up the aggression and volume, anything is possible. I think they were possibly the loudest band I’ve seen since Ministry on the ‘Psalm 69’ tour that night and they did not disappoint.

The opening trio of “Back in Business”, “Preaching to the Perverted” and “Dance of the Mad Bastards” was enough for me and ignoring my advancing years, I was back at the front of a Poppies gig leaping about like a middle-aged tit!

“We are the noisy interlude” proclaimed Mary Byker as he covered every inch of the stage, crashing into co-vocalist (and previously mentioned original member) Graham Crabb several times.

It sounded like all the old classics have been beefed up and made considerably heavier. particular highlights were “Ich Bin Ein Auslander”, “Get the Girl, Kill the Baddies” and the obligatory run through the ‘Big Mac, Fries To Go’ demanding “Def Con One”.

To say it went off when the Poppies were on would be an understatement, they sounded truly energised and bang into it. Nostalgia? No; totally relevant and essential.

So, how could tonight’s headliner follow the sterling displays from the two previous bands? Truth be told, they couldn’t. It was too big an ask.

I always quite liked The Wonder Stuff’s bitterly cynical lyrics set to the folky pop that they played. I even quite liked the snotty arrogance that was a Miles Hunt trademark.

I saw them play an absolute blinder at the much-missed (by me, anyway) Phoenix Festival in ’94, a gig that was supposed to be the farewell show, so what would a totally new line-up and a near 20 year gap bring? Violins by the ton was the answer.

After a fairly promising opening of a song I didn’t recognise and then my favorite Wonder Stuff track ever, “On The Ropes” it seemed to become overly ‘folky’ with a lot of acoustic strummery and yet more violins. My attention was waning…

Sure, there was all the hits and the sight and sound of well over a 1,000 people holding pints aloft and screaming “Shut it up, you silly cow” in the middle of “Golden Green” was great but it just wasn’t as exciting as what had gone before.

I shot outside to feed my weak nicotine addiction half way through the set and on my return the violin (Erika, to give her a name), had gone and Miles and co were hammering “Give Give Give Me More More More” and “Unbearable” and that was much more like it.

Miles had a huge grin across his face throughout the gig, clearly he’s not the surly chap he used to be anymore, unlike the rest of his band that must have careers as professional miserablists when not doing gigs. Cheer up lads, it’s Xmas!

The show was over running a little and with the chaos on the railways that day, we were forced to leave just as they left the stage, I’m pretty sure they’ll have come back for a deserved encore but we had to leave the venue to take on the frontline of good-natured festive binge drinking that was Leeds’ town centre.

I had a thouroughly wonderful night and best thing is, I get to do it all again next year as the ‘Sleigh the UK’ tour featuring the same three bands is returning for another four dates in December 2013.

My tickets for Sheffield are already bought. I wonder if they’d like to bring Carter USM and EMF with them and then we’d have the full set!!!

All words by Andy Santiago. You can read more from Andy on LTW here.

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