In a continuing chain of vista generosity, whenever one Sleaford Mods fan caught someone behind them chanting along to every word, they would give up their spot and push that studious enthusiast closer to the stage. So pockets of experts shuffled in friendly figure eights, an unspoken system of promotions for well-memorized devotion. Webster Hall was a crowded constellation of surprised eyes scrutinizing Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearn in action. The duo’s sarcastic-yet-serious performance energy appears to trigger two distinct potential responses, depending on the listener’s personality. Some were dancing with fervor and trying to get some pit movement going; others were stone-cold stoic, frozen in place like Medusa’s victims as they tried to process what was happening. Seemingly oblivious to this funny split among the audience, Sleaford Mods melted brains in a 25-track, no-encore set that kicked off with muscle-mover “UK GRIM.” Smack dab in the middle of second song “On the Ground,” Williamson looked around happily and shouted, “Webster HALL!” then went right back into the verse.
Williamson seemed extra psyched about their NYC tour stop, having tweeted beforehand about the staircase leading to Webster Hall’s stage and the building’s Guns N’ Roses connection. The band had also turned new album UK GRIM into NY GRIM by propping up a cardboard cutout of themselves on the subway and around the city to capture candid reactions. Even so, strangely, Manhattan did not get as rough as this raging show deserved until the end of the night. Until then, the only bursts of moshing originated with some fans who had traveled cross-country from Las Vegas. As if fearing crowdsurfing that would never occur, some uptight men put protective arms around their ladies with fifties sock hop body language. A few harmless dancers received fussy reprimands like “I’d rather you didn’t,” and thus, had to find ways to groove without jostling the squares. The vibe was Footloose meets The Twilight Zone at ol’ Webby, even though the band’s lively antics should have been sufficient permission to put combat boots in the air. Luckily, some badass grandma-age headbangers stood out boldly, resetting the rules throughout the room to enable more jumping.
Within the haze from smoke machines and sneaky vapers, Andrew Fearn was smashing buttons, supplying the beats with bonus buoyant dancing and some heroic high kicks. Jason Williamson’s body matched the stylish rigidity of his delivery – which sounds especially cool to stateside listeners thanks to his impish East Midlands accent. He curtsied with his tee yanked down like a mini dress. He stomped around so pointedly that the oversized outer pockets of his GOOPi pants flared out like a posh art installation. He repeatedly held his water bottle atop his head like a unicorn horn. He even interjected some avian squawks that somehow fit right in with his tongue-in-cheek prose. Infused with that signature jaded Sleaford Mods humor, the poetry of his observational lyrics popped. All that clever quick commentary hits even harder when you can read his lips live.
New record UK GRIM dominated as Sleaford Mods whipped out eleven of its catchy cuts, though a smattering of older staples were interspersed too. Not long after a scorching “TCR” got minds and pulses racing, a whirlpool finally formed front and center. It took “Tory Kong” to really set it off, but it kept going through “I Claudius” and intensified when folks shouted along loudly to “Nudge It.” The stubbornly subdued bystanders could only cackle in shock as they gave in to the bout of bumper-car motion, and suddenly, it was a party both on the stage and below it. As if abruptly realizing we were allowed to get wild, Webster Hall gave Sleaford Mods a real NYC send-off and bounced around passionately for “Tied Up in Nottz,” “Jobseeker,” and killer finale “Tweet Tweet Tweet.” Like watching a horror movie in the theatre and gasping with strangers, it was inherently more fun to react as a group to Williamson’s fast-paced wit and lilting metre, which earned jump-out scene screams.
Article: Olivia Isenhart
Photos: Shayne Hanley