There’s a woman in the second row gulping from a bottle of hooch and a man in double denim lurking towards the back. Were it not for the guy next to me who’s just exclaimed “this song is older than my boyfriend” as Sleeper launch into ‘What do I do now?’ you’d be forgiven for assuming that it was still the 1990’s.
With that Sleeper deliver everything you’d expect from a reemergence of their britpop sound, with hit after hit filling the set list. Perhaps what’s most refreshing is that there’s no catch. No ‘”here’s a new one off our album that’s due next year”, not even a whiff of anything off of their Pleased to Meet you album, just the fan favourites and their cover of Blondie’s ‘Atomic’. With that however, comes limited variation. There’s no major reworking of ‘Nice Guy Eddie’, ‘Statuesque’ still sounds just like I remembered it to aged 12, singing into a hairbrush whilst reading the lyrics from Top of The Pops magazine, and ‘Inbetweener’ still features the same guitar riffs as the original.
That’s far from a criticism however, when your chords are as a good as those at the start of ‘Sale of the Century’, you’ve no need to mess with a winning formula. In fact, tonight actually stands as a testament to how relevant and un-aging Sleeper’s songs really are. For me, it’s ‘Dress Like Your Mother’ that comes as the unexpected highlight and shows how Wener’s voice has become huskier, adding to the cynicism of the song.
Meanwhile however there’s a guy in the front row, who successfully reminds me it wasn’t all roses in the 90s. As he yells “I still would” in Wener’s direction, it’s a quick wake up call that part of Sleeper’s original success was the novelty of having a ‘female fronted’ band riding the charts next to the likes of Cocker, Gallagher, and Albarn. Misogyny and a 20 year hiatus aside however, tonight is the perfect trip down memory lane and whilst I’m pleased the booze has improved on the hooch days it’s a shame that female fronted bands still feels like a rarity, rather than a norm.