Live Review: Sleaford Mods @ Motorpoint Arena

Louis Griffin reviews Sleaford Mods' epic hometown show at Nottingham's very own Motorpoint Arena.

“Live tonight!” barks Jason Williamson, from the stage of the Motorpoint Arena. Sleaford Mods are mid-way through their biggest headline to date, a triumphant homecoming, and live tonight they most certainly are.

The band have come a long way to get here, a fact not lost on themselves or the audience. Their first Nottingham show was a support slot at The Chameleon Arts Café over a decade ago, when their brand of hungry electro-punk was a shock to a scene of staid indie and tribute bands. They’re a band that inspire loyalty – it feels like most of the nearly 10,000 people here tonight have probably seen them once, twice, countless times. There’s a palpable feeling of reunion.

The band have made a day of it. Three support bands (Warmduscher, Billy Nomates, Dry Cleaning) grace the stage before Williamson and beatmaker Andrew Fearne do. Warmduscher provide a slab of strung-out southern comfort, a marriage of hip-hop arrangements and funk riffs made in hell. Lead by New York expat Clams Baker, their sludge of bass and synth sprawls out across an arena already filling up at 7PM, with the slimy groove of Fill It, Don’t Spill It making a weirdly apt accompaniment to the Mods’ basslines. Up next was Billy Nomates, who has accompanied the band on much of their Spare Ribs tour. Hers was a set dominated by pulsating sub-bass, the kind of frequencies you feel in the pit of your stomach. She bounded across the cavernous Motorpoint stage with fizzing energy, propelled by the grimness of her subject matter in much the same way Williamson is – in fact, he joined her for a verse on Supermarket Sweep. Nomates’ lack of a backing band ultimately left her set feeling a little hollow, though – what might have resonated in a sweaty basement got slightly lost in an arena.

''The stage backdrop was corrugated plastic and neon strip lighting, a knowing nod to the factory jobs Williamson was working when the band started out''

Dry Cleaning were the final support before Sleaford Mods, a booking that might well have raised a few eyebrows - their sound is a far cry from the fury of Williamson and Fearne. But they remain a band carried along by the tightness of their rhythm section, and this set was no different. Guitarist Tom Dowse turned the dissonant riff of Viking Hair into something more reminiscent of The Stooges, and they won over a fairly skeptical crowd.

The main event, despite the almost day-festival energy in the room, was always going to be Sleaford Mods’ homecoming. The stage backdrop was corrugated plastic and neon strip lighting, a knowing nod to the factory jobs Williamson was working when the band started out. They emerged to furious chants of their name, à la the afore-mentioned 'Live Tonight', and immediately launch into the closing track from their most recent album, Fishcakes.

They court the energy in the room, teasing the laser-guided basslines that the audience know they have in their back pocket. By the time Kebab Spider explodes into a four-to-the-floor drum loop, the audience is a seething mass.

The aptness of this gig isn’t lost on Jason. Although his typical stage presence (looking like a man continually on the verge of a nervous breakdown) remains unchanged, there are more grins and points to the crowd than usual, as he catches the eye of (you assume) friends and family. Andrew meanwhile spends the entire set undergoing what looks remarkably similar to a workout, jumping and lunging his way through each track.

''The band seem in awe of what they’ve accomplished, and the energy in the crowd is euphoric''

The band’s choice of support acts for the night was carefully thought out with regards to their set, too. Billy Nomates joins them for Mork and Mindy, a stand-out from Spare Ribs that receives a rapturous response. The real ace in the hole, though, is Amy Taylor, of Australian punks Amyl and the Sniffers. The stars aligned so that she was in the UK at just the right time, and so the lucky few present at the show witnessed the only live performance to date of their collaboration Nudge It. By the time the set reaches the band’s earlier material, every word is being shouted back at them. Jobseeker receives a feverish response, and set closer Tweet Tweet Tweet echoes around the venue with nightmarish effect. The band seem in awe of what they’ve accomplished, and the energy in the crowd is euphoric. They take a bow, and leave the stage, assured in their position as homecoming heroes.

Written by: Louis Griffin

Edited by: Amrit Virdi

Featured image and in-article images courtesy of Sleaford Mods via Facebook.