Phil Moore reviews Sleeper at the Roadmender, Northampton
Towards the end of their ’90s run Sleeper were rather unfairly the butt of jokes, usually the SleeperBloke idea of the anonymous backing band, or that they are everyone’s 17th favourite Britpop act.
It was all a bit unfair really - in a very crowded marketplace they were undeniably a successful band, with a strong run of singles and a trio of albums
Their quiet reformation in 2017 has given them a chance to turn it back around, showing the world what they were about in the first place.
Friday’s sold-out show was a testament to the interest this revival has sparked.
But first up was Lancashire quartet The Lottery Winners, who provided decent and highly appropriate support.
Their melodic singalong indie was expertly led by frontman Tom Rylance, who possesses the northern stand-up, larger-than-life personality.
He won the crowd over to his side in about three seconds of being onstage, and he/they continued to lift the mood with songs like That’s Not Entertainment, which is about “crap telly and crap bands”.
Ones to watch out for this year, without doubt.
Arriving on stage to You Only Live Twice, Sleeper proved they really are alive again and as it turned out new album The Modern Age had hit the top 20 - no mean feat for a band no one has much thought about for a couple of decades.
The crowd roared at the sight of heartthrob and style icon Louise Wener emerging from the shadows and as the pleasing throb of Nice Guy Eddie began to emanate from the (now six-piece) band.
There’s no escaping that fact Wener was the focus this evening.
She worked the crowd like a pro, arms outstretched to take the hand of her many admirers.
The tunes they played - both old and new – were as catchy as a school-class bug.
Delicious and Lie Detector are Blondie-meets-Pixies adrenaline rushes in three minute bites - the sort of pure escapism a Brexit-weary nation is craving for.
Statuesque still sounded as mighty as it did blaring from Radio 1 in the summer of ‘96.
Pyrotechnician, the final album track from their debut album Smart, was all fiery riot grrl intensity, and went down a proverbial storm.
The songs played from new album The Modern Age fitted seamlessly into their set.
Paradise Waiting mimicked their '90s sound, while Blue Like You could have been a Morrissey single from back in the day.
The album title track and The Sun Also Rises added modern touches to their template, keyboard squelches, pace breakdowns, and more mature melodies from Wener which assuredly suited her delivery.
Before the latter there was a brief emotional Keith Flint tribute, as Wener explained bassist Kieron Pepper, a former Prodigy drummer, almost missed the show after attending Flint’s funeral.
Atomic finally had some hips swaying, though why they interjected the song with a segment of Love Will Tear Us Apart was baffling and possibly spoilt the moment.
No matter, as the final four songs - Inbetweener, and an encore of Look at You Now, Vegas, and Sale of The Century - was more than enough to permanently etch a smile on all the faces present in the hallowed sweatbox of the Roadmender.
Guitarist Jon Stewart hits some bum notes on occasion, but that’s as wrong as it went tonight.
Sleeper fully deserve this second life and hopefully will continue to entertain the crowds and release more albums as good as their well-received new one.
Nice Guy Eddie
What Do I Do Now?
Blue Like You
The Modern Age
The Sun Also Rises
Atomic / Love Will Tear Us Apart
Look at You Now
Sale of The Century