20th November | O2 Academy
Photos: Jeff Oram
While Bristol’s own IDLES have (rightly) been the big story in British rock in 2018, fellow punk luminaries Slaves have themselves ‘quietly’ had another pretty great year. Another top ten UK album (Acts of Fear and Love), their third straight, an impressive trawl across many of Europe’s biggest festivals, and now a big UK tour, closing with a massive show at London’s Alexandra Palace. Not too shabby.
Support for this tour has come from fellow Tunbridge Wells punks Lady Bird, who became the first signings to Slaves’ Girl Fight Records label earlier this year. Slaves stirred a minor controversy earlier this week by declaring that they would not release set times for their shows, as they wanted to encourage people to show up earlier to see the support bands. The tweet received a mixed reception, but definitely started a useful debate.
In any case, it was very clear that the good folks of Bristol needed no persuasion to come out and see Lady Bird. The venue was packed, the moshpit was moshing, and it seemed like everyone knew the words to their songs. And no wonder, as those songs are absolutely cracking, spinning entertaining stories, backed with some quality riffs. The closing pair of ‘Spoons’ (a homage to a certain popular UK pub chain) and ‘Baby!’ sealed the deal on an excellent set. Odds on this band only being the support act in future? No chance, mate.
Then on came Slaves, and you knew it was going to be a great show from the moment singer Isaac Holman uttered the immortal words, “Have you ever been in Bristol, when it has been…,” pre-empting the launch into the band’s brilliant cover of the Skepta song ‘Shutdown’. This song has been largely absent from their setlists over the last couple of years, and it was great to see it back. Next came ‘Sockets’, and then it was straight into probably the two best songs from Acts of Fear and Love, ‘Bugs’ and ‘Magnolia’, both of which were delivered with the excitement of a band that are very happy to have some new bangers to play.
Isaac prefaced ‘Fuck the Hi-Hat’ with the great story of how Slaves ended up as a two-piece because nobody wanted to play with them. A couple of fans were called up on stage to perform the dance to ‘Cut and Run’, and once again demonstrated that while punk rockers can dance like they don’t caaaaare with the best of them, they refuse to conform to choreography, even if it does come from their heroes – bravo!
An acoustic version of ‘Photo Opportunity’ was surprisingly effective, and in the spirit of 2018 punk, was closed out with a little kiss between the pair. Then, just as it seemed like the show was drawing to a close quietly, up started those grinding early bars of ‘Beauty Quest’, and guitarist Laurie Vincent was bouncing all over the stage like a demented space hopper. Closing, as usual, with ‘The Hunter’, this was yet another triumph of a Slaves show.
Outside the venue, the crowd chanted ‘Fuck the Hi-Hat’ as they walked away from the O2 Academy. There is space for multiple champions in Britain’s punk resurgence, and long may the mighty Slaves be a part of it.
See the video for ‘Cut and Run’ here: