Bob Vylan at Club Academy, Manchester

Photos and Words by Jacob Swetmore 

Fresh off the release of their latest album; Bob Vylan Presents The Price Of Life, genre-bending London punk/hip-hop/grime duo Bob Vylan embarked on a headline UK tour in early May. I headed to Manchester Club Academy, to catch one of the final dates of their tour.

As the crowd started to filter in, the only support act of the night, Bristol based producer/vocalist Grove took the stage. Backed by self-proclaimed “child of the bass” EJ AKIN, Grove provided a powerful set of electronic/house influenced music which; whilst being musically distinct from the heavier, more rugged style of Bob Vylan, slotted perfectly in terms of lyrical themes and energy. References to the toppling of the Colston statue in their hometown of Bristol, for example, garnered massive applause from the Vylan fanbase. The clear stand out of Grove’s set was BBB, a track created with London-based artist Lynks.

Once Grove had finished their set, Bob Vylan’s team took no time in preparing the stage for the main act; this included two functional fruit machines, which were rolled onto either end of the stage. Once the stage was set, a member of the team grabbed the microphone to simultaneously hype up the crowd, and introduce the London duo. However, instead of bursting onto the stage with an energetic opener, frontman Bobby Vylan took the time to encourage the audience to participate in a few minutes of “light stretching and meditation”, to the backdrop of an instrumental rendition of Down from drummer Bobbie Vylan. After the warmup was complete, Bob Vylan kicked straight into action with a track from their latest album; Big Man.

Throughout the length of the group’s set, Bobby’s incendiary lyrics shone through, touching on topics such as the ever more present cost of living crisis with songs such as G.D.P. and Take That, and the struggles of living as a black man within Britain; crying out on the fan-favourite track We Live Here: “we didn’t appear out of thin air, we live here!”. However, Bobby also demonstrated that he doesn’t always need scathing punk instrumentals to convey his message, opting to don the acoustic guitar for a quieter rendition of ‘He Sold Guns’, before kicking into the full track.

Highlights of Vylan’s set included We Live Here, 2020 single England’s Ending, the Rage Against The Machine tinged Turn Off The Radio, and ‘Price of Life’ single Wicked and Bad. Towards the end of the set, Bobby also announced that the band would be making time for anyone who wanted to chat with them after the gig at the merch stand. However, this was not before inviting the entire audience onto the stage for the final song, much to the dismay of the venue’s security.

Overall, Bob Vylan provided an intense set of cutting messages on the current state of the country, with frontman Bobby’s scathing, and yet ever more relevant lyrics placed over a tight performance from drummer Bobbie, proving themselves as one of the most important bands around right now.

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Philip Goddard

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