Sleeper @ The Ritz, Manchester 24-11-2018

Saturday night at The Ritz in Manchester and it is packed with 40 – 50somethings keen to rekindle some memories of ‘95/’96 Cool Britannia and a certain BRIT Pop Girl by the name of Louise Wener.

Sleeper emerged from a very deep one last year and joined the ‘Star Shaped Festival’ which played the Ritz, and as they enjoyed that night so much, they decided to stay awake a little longer, culminating in recording a brand-new album due for release next year, and 2019 will see them on another UK tour and at a few festivals in the Summer.
Wener herself appears to have changed little in the intervening 20-year absence and stands looking trim, fit (in both senses of the word) wearing a Space Cowboy T-shirt, black skinny jeans and boots. Sure, there are a few wrinkles here and there but who hasn’t at 52 years and 2 kids.

Opening with ‘Nice Guy Eddie’ one of their biggest hits (UK No 10 in 1996) from ‘The It Girl’ which showed that all of those smoky vocals from Wener were very much intact. She then pulls on the Fender for ‘Pyrotechnician’ from the slightly earlier 1995 ‘Smart’ album. Let’s face it they really came and went so fast in the mid-nineties that if you weren’t around during that 2-year period you missed out on some of the catchiest pure indie pop from a UK band.

Guitarist Jon Stewart is smiling and laughing whilst hopping from one leg to the other in some bizarre wild flamingo mating ritual, whilst drummer (and husband of Wener), Andy Maclure watches on constantly bouncing up and down on his chair.
‘What Do I Do Now’, ‘Lie Detector’ and ‘Statuesque’ all kept the happy faithful Manc crowd moving at the front, some may even have spilled a bit of their two-pinters in the frenetic dancing and recall of long-lost lyrics like “Make-up like glue, she danced ‘round the room, to the sound of her corduroy flares”. Great tunes, instant memories of a simpler time when social media didn’t get in the way of having a good night out, although ironically much of it tonight being recorded and watched through aloft smartphones.
As well as the 8 hit singles in the setlist we have a few well-chosen covers, most notably Blondie’s ‘Atomic’ which sounded superb and completely made for this band. It did make an appearance on the ‘Trainspotting’ soundtrack, so not really a surprise that it is included in the live set. To segue a brief chorus of ‘Love Will tear Us Apart’ within the track was inspired though, greeted with euphoria here in Manchester and the singing back was louder than the band themselves.
Lou Reed’s ‘Satellite of Love’ is another contained within ‘Feeling Peaky’ and this leads to the finale of personal favourite ‘Inbetweener’. The story styled lyrics to this song are a work of art, no wonder Wener went on to be a writer in the 2000’s. – Go read them.

Louise Wener and the ‘SleeperBlokes’ did everything tonight to ensure another chance in the concert halls of the UK, next year will be the interesting one – brand new album and a bigger tour. Don’t miss it, it could be another 20 years before it happens again.

Nice Guy Eddie / Pyrotechnician / Delicious / What Do I Do Now? / Blue Like You / Lie Detector / Statuesque / Alice in Vain / And the Sun Also Rises / Atomic (w/Love Will Tear Us Apart) / Factor 41 / Feeling Peaky (w/Satellite of Love) / Inbetweener
ENCORE: Look at You Now / Vegas / Sale of the Century

Review & Photography by John Hayhurst


Philip Goddard

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