slavesA review of Slaves at Newcastle O2 Academy.

Even when the band are not playing one of their punk effusions, security are kept busy, skimming crowd-surfers off the top of an ever simmering mosh pit. The punk duo based in Kent arrived on stage fifteen minutes later than expected, however, all was forgiven when guitarist Laurie Vincent ripped through the opening riff of ‘Hey’. Security underestimated the carnage that followed as the whole venue shook, this was greeted with a cheeky grin from drummer and vocalist, Isaac Holman.

The topless Holman showed little sign of care for his dislocated shoulder that occurred a while back as the drums were battered to within an inch of their life. Rumour has it that Holman popped his shoulder back into place last time they played Newcastle and continue to play. Punk rock!

The movement from the duo is infectious and it definitely rubs off on those in the crowd, seeing those enjoy  and get right into what they do always makes the event more enjoyable and relatable to those watching. Vincent, dressed in grey fitted trousers and sporting the brand of clothing known as ‘Young Lover’s Club’, raced through a mixture of songs from new album ‘Take Control’ and debut album sensation ‘Are you Satisfied?’ with self-proclaimed best friend adding hard-hitting lyrics to the madness. 

Slaves epitomise home-grown success and are one of the unlikeliest stories of 2015. In 12 months, the duo have gone from supporting an ‘Iron Maiden’ live DVD in their local to pub to performing at the Reading and Leeds festival main stage to over 25,000 people. Their Mercury-nominated debut album, ‘Are You Satisfied?’, which sports two bichon frises has become a well-known and sought after record, especially those collecting vinyl. 

The new album, ‘Take Control’,  had received mixed reviews among critics as many complained the new album lacked the potency and direction compared to their debut album. Which in hindsight, is a positive thing; I am a big enthusiast of evolution within a band, taking new directions is only natural and this is exactly what Slaves have done here. Single ‘Spit it Out’ still hits you smack bang in the face and wouldn’t go a miss on the previous album, however, this album highlights the technical wizardry of Laurie Vincent and Issac’s songwriting prowess.

Personal highlights were definitely ‘Steer Clear’ and ‘Lies’; if you are yet to hear these tracks, take my advice and listen immediately. The set list was also another talking point – the massive success and popularity of ‘Are you Satisfied?’ meant fans who weren’t brand new to the band were unimpressed with the lack of songs from the first album. Those who were sceptical on the setlist before the event would have had their worries eased for sure.

The 23 song strong set list was one of Slaves’ longest gigs to date, there was a mixture of both albums and earlier EP’s recorded. The inclusion of ‘Girl Fight’ and ‘Fuck The Hi-Hat’ were included in the setlist with both songs duration not even 1 minute long. However, this angered some when song like ‘Ninety-Nine’ and ‘Live Like An Animal’ were left out. In a general sense, few would have left disappointed about the setlist but majority left feeling excited and satisfied.

Laurie Vincent had recently announced a partnership with Fender before kicking off this winter’s tours. Laurie had previously used Airline guitars during his live sets and recordings, but news of a partnership had broken with images following soon. His offset Mustang 90 in sparkle gold rattled ears, made others pull approving faces and saw many nod in unison.

The encore seen fans continue their prolonged jumping and head banging. ‘Lies’, ‘White Knuckle Ride’ and single ‘Spit It Out’ rounded off a raucous evening. Another faultless performance from a band that have securely nestled themselves into one my favourites. Technically, the show was a hit and was a pleasure to watch two musicians doing what they love. There’s even more room for development which is exciting. It will be interesting to see what the future holds for the Kent punk duo… does arena tours beckon? new album? different projects? Who knows, but enjoy this White Knuckle Ride while it lasts.

Sorry – no pun intended…

Matthew Thomas.