Steve Ignorant's Slice Of Life

Steve Ignorant’s Slice Of Life

– THE RITZ, MANCHESTER –

So, why after two years (-1 day) have I decided to dust off my writing pad and make the time to review tonight’s gig? The simple answer, Sleaford Mods have excited me more than any other band in the last twenty plus years.

As it happens, tonight’s support comes from Steve Ignorant’s Slice of Life, Ignorant (who’s far from his moniker) was the frontman of a band that excited me thirty plus years ago when I was a young teen. That band was Crass. I know that some of tonight’s crowd don’t know of Crass, as two of the people I’m with haven’t either. In brief, Crass were quite possibly the most political punk band of the late 70s/early 8os, and not just a band, they were a movement, an idea. Crass scared the political classes and took on the government, even more so after the Falklands war. Questions were even raised about the band in parliament, plus an attempt was made to prosecute them under the Obscene Publications Act for their single ‘How Does It Feel (to the mother of a thousand dead)’. Maybe there should be a re-working of this song for Tony Blair? There’s so much more to this band, so it’s worth looking them up (you can hear me chatting with Steve Ignorant about Crass, Sleaford Mods and more on the Silent Radio show here).

The intro to his set is a riff on This Is A Man’s World, it’s full of stark content about the migrant issue, politics and the human condition and it grabs everyone here by the collars and draws their undivided attention. The old Steve Ignorant style of singing has gone, well almost, the passion is still there and subject matter may be less aggressive on the surface. His band, made up of Carol Hodge (keyboard), Pete Wilson (guitar) and Pete Rawlinson (bass) are all sat behind, each at times providing backing vocals from time to to time through the set.

Most songs have a short introduction from Steve, and the ones that do seem to get added passion and anger throughout. He may not be in Crass anymore, but he means his lyrics, and for me that’s imperative, and when seeing him sing them live, fills me with joy that some old punks never really stop caring, passionately. They leave the stage to loud cheers and whistles, even from those who were unaware of them before the set.

To fill the fifteen minutes before Sleaford Mods, a local poet strides on stage. His northern twang and stage presence has the crowd within seconds, and his poems are witty to boot. Please go and check him out if you get chance. Poems about daft things your mother used to say to you as a kid strike a chord with a vast majority of us in attendance. His name.. JB Barrington (@JB_Barrington).

Now the time is upon us, Andrew Fearn, the coordinator of Sleaford Mods’ beats walks on stage with his rucksack, clears a table of its black cloth like a magician about to reveal a stunning close to a trick to the audience, alas not, but the magic comes from his rucksack (his laptop) which is swiftly opened, laid on the table and plugged in.

Sleaford Mods

Sleaford Mods

As I said earlier, Sleaford Mods have excited me and the reason for this is that they’ve added a massive peak to the musical landscape. The landscape has plateaued for years now, that’s not to say there’s not shed loads of music out there that I love, because there is, but nothing has grabbed me like they have. Maybe it’s because I seem to get where the lyrics of Jason Williamson are coming from. We are the same age, so probably seen the same things in the bigger picture, maybe in the smaller picture too. But then again so have many other people our age, the difference is that Williamson seems to have avoided something most people at the age of 45 haven’t, and that’s apathy. Apathy kills everything it touches, it turns a blind eye and just says ‘well, it could be worse’. Apathy in music, as in life, ruins, and that’s why Sleaford Mods are special. The first time I mentioned them on the Silent Radio just over a year ago I referred to them as a Marmite band, well I take that back, they are a Vegemite band. Vegemite being the bigger stronger brother of Marmite.

I’ve had many a conversation with people about Sleaford Mods, some get it, some don’t. I’ve got the feeling that some people don’t like them because the  lyrics make them think, and they don’t like having to think because apathy has set in. To be fair though, I’ve also spoke to people who don’t like the music of Sleaford Mods but love what they are doing for the music scene. How many other bands get that type of comment? I can’t think of any. So, that’s me done on the why, back to the gig.

I’m stood with friends, some who’ve seen them live before, and some who haven’t, but the anticipation of both camps is at maximum. As Williamson walks, well, strolls on stage the whole place is ready for it. The most laid back track of the new album ‘Arabia’ is the set opener, almost as if to keep our readiness at bay. Still slightly laid back ‘Bronx In A Six’ is next, then ‘Live Tonight’ lifts the pace a little, but then it happens, in kicks ‘No One’s Bothered’ and the packed venue gets the tempo needed to get The Ritz’s sprung dance-floor bouncing. The chorus is sung straight back at the two lone figures on the stage. Fearn as always standing behind his laptop, bottle in hand, smiling and dancing, while Williamson sings and snarls. There’s no showboating from either of them at at all, which most bands would do with this amount of adulation in the room.

Sleaford Mods

Sleaford Mods photo by Duncan Stafford

Another thing about a Sleaford Mods gig, on the surface there’s a lot of anger from Williamson’s lyrics and the delivery, but when I’ve seen them live before and just like tonight none of this converts to an angry crowd, everyone just gets it rather than trying to emulate their take on it, they hear and see the funny side of it all too and just enjoy it, a lot.

After ‘Face To Faces’ from the new album Williamson says it’s time for some older stuff, and this kicks off with ‘A Little Ditty’, then massive crowd favourite ‘Jobseeker’. This is followed by ‘Fizzy’ and every F bomb, C bomb, in fact a whole alphabet’s worth of bombs are being shouted back at the stage. Williamson even manages to riff into the song Queens lyrics of “I want to break free”. Class.

At this point a towel is tossed to Williamson from the side of the stage. He explains that it’s due to his age,I know what he means, I’m drenched too. I’m tempted to retreat from near the front, but if he can sweat it it out, then I can too, hopefully.

I’m made up that ‘Giddy On The Ciggies’ gets an airing live. We’re just over the halfway mark of the hour that Williamson told us our radio show would be the length of the set. The place is loving it all too, there’s a mosh pit starting in the centre now, I keep looking over to see if it’s getting a bit rough, but no, everyone still has a big grin on their faces.

The rest of the set is a mixed bag of older and newer tracks. Between song banter is kept to a minimum, but that’s fine, there’s enough banter in the lyrics, and to be fair we’re all happy to hear song after song after song, the more the merrier. Williamson spoke to us about his dad dancing in a telephone conversation last week, and tonight he shows his paternal shuffles on the stage. To say my dad dancing is as good would be a lie.

The whole set is rip roaring, everyone has loved it, even the silly billies stood next to me who seem to spend most of the night stood statue-esque with arms outstretched just pointing at and glaring at Fearn.

PS shout loud enough at the end of the set and you’ll get an encore.

They are the mods!

Hear me chatting with Jason Williamson on our weekly live radio show here.

SLEAFORD MODS Official Facebook Twitter

Steve Ignorant’s Slice Of Life Facebook | Twitter

Simon Zaccagni

‘Accidental Editor’ None of this was planned; I’ve never been in a band, never been part of the ‘music scene’ and never expected to be the gaffer of a music website with loads of dedicated music loving writers. I bought my first record when I was 8 and haven’t stopped buying since. I love crate digging for bizarre and weird stuff, but equally happy ploughing through press releases looking/listening for something I’ve never heard before.