Having attended the launch event ‘Acts Of Fear And Love’, an expressive yet seriously punchy record, at Nottingham’s Rough Trade in summer, I was eager to hear Slaves’ third studio album on the bigger stage. From my chat with Laurie in August, I sensed he was itching to test the album out on the country’s biggest and best venues – so where better than a sold-out Rock City?
An interesting mixture of songs preceded Slaves’ arrival, and by interesting, I mean bizarre – never before have I seen a punk band strut onto the stage to the eclectic sound of ‘Vengaboys’. However, the crowd were lapping it up as the duo graced the stage, and like many gigs at Rock City – the atmosphere was electric. But the music quietened, the lights dimmed, the crowd drew a deep breath (probably) as Isaac slowly lifted the mic: “Hey Laurie, have you ever been to Rock City when it’s shut down?”
That was surely the cue for mayhem. The crowd surged forward, the pits opened up, Rock City became very sweaty, very quickly. Following the Skepta cover, ‘Slaves’ cascaded through tracks of old and new: with Magnolia, a track Laurie admitted he loved playing, keeping all the intensity created by the opener.
Hours before the show was set to commence, Isaac put out a message to his fans on Instagram confirming that his hand was still too damaged to play – so he wouldn’t be able to play/beat the sh*t out of the drums in true Isaac fashion. But to save the day, in stepped support band and good friends of Slaves, ‘Lady Bird’ – meaning, and this made me feel nothing short of privileged to witness this, ‘Slaves’ had a fully mobile frontman. Isaac almost looked like he enjoyed himself: whether he was stomping around the stage to ‘People That You Meet’, or descending into the depths of the crowd – he surely embraced the change.
The set was longer than I expected, with the Slaves and ‘Lady Bird’ combo entertaining the masses for a full 90 minutes or more, but it remained exciting throughout. While they didn’t play much of album number two – ‘Take Control’, the set had tracks from ‘Are You Satisfied’ and ‘Acts Of Fear And Love’ by the bucket load. Personal highlights included ‘Feed The Mantaray’ – three minutes of sheer madness and ruthless mosh-pits, and ‘Cut And Run’ a track that was always bound to be a hit on the bigger stage with its energetic riffs and catchy chorus. Of course, old favourites ‘The Hunter’ and ‘Cheer Up London’ sent the crowd into a boisterous frenzy, but you’d expect no less from a Slaves gig.
In a moment of respite, Isaac opened up to the crowd – enlightening the audience about how the band is not a two-piece out of decision, yet because when they started out, nobody wanted to play with them. The fact Isaac was reflecting on the band’s early days really was quite thought provoking for me: the duo are no longer the new kids on the block, ready to shake up the status quo, yet true mainstays of the British rock scene.