Live Review – The Slow Readers Club @ O2 Academy
The Slow Readers Club
Review by Ian Paget
There’s something about Mancunian guitar bands that seems to attract a particularly fervent following, and there’s certainly a huge buzz of anticipation long before The Slow Readers Club take to the stage tonight, with chants of “Readers!” breaking out amongst the excited crowd. When the band do finally take to the stage the chants intensify and it’s straight down to business – frontman Aaron Starkie simply states “Evening Birmingham, we’re The Slow Readers Club. This is ‘Fool For Your Philosophy'” and we’re off with a Depeche Mode-style electropop backing track and those brooding Joy Division guitars. There’s an almost militant beat through the likes of ‘Supernatural’ and ‘Lost Boys’ which sees bassist Jim marching on the spot and staring out across the crowd. Songs like ‘Lives Never Known’ in particular bring out strong comparisons with Editors, largely down to Aaron’s dramatic vocal delivery and the band’s ability to combine the dark, atmospheric guitars with big uplifting choruses.
“We’ve been trying to mix the sets up a bit on this tour” explains Aaron in a rare moment between songs, “so we’re going to play some tracks we haven’t played for a while”. ‘Through The Shadows’ slows things down a little before ‘Forever In Your Debt’ has the room clapping along to the staccato bassline and a rare outing for ‘Grace Of God’ raises the intensity again. “It’s all a bit more familiar from here on in” states Aaron ahead of old favourite ‘Sirens’ and the audience react positively, whilst recent single ‘You Opened Up My Heart’ is already greeted like a classic. As well as the mellower ‘Block Out The Sun’ and rousing singalong of ‘On The TV’, we’re treated to a glimpse of new material in the shape of ‘The Wait’, another bass-heavy track with prominent guitars that will definitely appeal to fans of early Editors, and with a closing salvo of the cinematic ‘I Saw A Ghost’ and ‘Lunatic’ it surely seems like the time is right for The Slow Readers Club to graduate from cult favourites into mainstream contenders.
ShadowParty are a new band with a lot to live up to. Featuring modern-day members of New Order and Devo in their ranks, they’re a kind of “supergroup” without the headline names, which kind of works in their favour – they’ve got all the experience and talent with a lesser degree of pressure and expectation on their shoulders. It’s their last night supporting The Slow Readers Club on tour this evening and they’ve clearly struck up a good relationship with the fans who’ve been to multiple shows, receiving a warm reception right from the beginning of their set.
Beginning with ‘Taking Over’ from last year’s self-titled debut album, it’s clear where some of the ingredients come from, particularly in Phil Cunningham’s guitar sound which instantly recalls his work with New Order. Frontman Josh Hager is usually found playing guitars for Devo but he’s also a great vocalist too, with a deep drawl that suits the band’s sound really well.
‘Reverse The Curse’ goes in a harder electronic direction, with signature 80’s Haçienda-style synths and beats mixing alongside the guitars, whilst ‘Marigold’ is a slower indie-rock number which keeps the set fresh and ‘Truth’ has a Roxy Music glam feel to it which maybe hints back to Josh’s sharp post-punk playing as part of Devo.
Keyboardist/backing singer Ellen Lewis takes centre stage for ‘Present Tense’, offering soulful vocals alongside Josh on another New Order-inspired track before new song ‘Aftershock’ and the upbeat and catchy ‘Celebrate’ round things off. “We’re going to miss you guys”, Josh tells the crowd at the end of the set, but on tonight’s showing I’d expect more than a few Slow Readers Club fans to be chomping at the bit to see more of ShadowParty next time out.