Sleaford Mods and Sheer Mag Get the Weekend Started at Webster Hall
April 10, 2023
Sleaford Mods – Webster Hall – April 7, 2023
“A weird bill,” said Sheer Mag singer Tina Halladay at Webster Hall on Friday night. The thought is not not wrong. But thankfully one person’s weird bill is another’s treasure, and a Sheer Mag and Sleaford Mods matchup is the kind of weird I happen to greatly enjoy.
It’s been a minute since I’ve seen Sheer Mag and their driving ’70s throwback rock, so it was fitting that they took the stage to Prism’s “Good to Be Back.” The Philly act opened with “Steel Sharpens Steel,” off 2019’s A Distant Call. Halladay’s booming and melodic snarl continues to be a magnetic force, easily holding a crowd that I imagine included a fair number of newcomers. The band coursed through the big hits off 2017’s Need to Feel Your Love, like “Expect the Bayonet,” “Pure Desire” and, of course, “Just Can’t Get Enough.” Guitarists Matt Palmer and Kyle Seely and his brother Hart, the band’s bassist, were masterclass rock stuff on “Turn It Up,” the set closer.
Then, the vibe shift: The stage was cleared of everything save a folding table, laptop and mic stand, the spare setup signature to Sleaford Mods. A roaring crowd greeted the Nottingham, England, duo, Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearn, as Fearn pressed PLAY on the backing track to “UK Grim,” the titular song off their incandescent new album, which dropped in March. Against a kick-drum beat and Goth-y bassline, Williamson talks, gargles, drawls, yells and spits lyrics about rich people (“Threesomes and wealth measles / Penetrate the cornflakes”). Their set weaved and bobbed through their catalog, touching down on songs like “I Don’t Rate You,” (Spare Ribs, 2021) about being annoyed by a right fucker: “Bloke’s a kiss arse, silly head,” Williamson lobbed over a pulsating dark techno beat. Other standouts included “Mork n Mindy” — also off Spare Ribs and featuring vocals from Billy Nomates — and “TCR,” an up-tempo, rock-suffused number with a hooky chorus.
All that mugging, though, is cut with some real silly stage work, bordering on surreal. After starting each track, Fearn stood off-center, dancing like an earnest fan-cum–hype man in the stage corner. Williamson moved too — affixing his arm to his hip, twisting, cancanning, marching and swiveling around the stage, at times working the mic stand like a bass guitar or attempting to balance a water bottle on his head. The last three songs — “Tied Up in Nottz,” “Jobseeker” and “Tweet Tweet Tweet” — were an onslaught, and strictly for the heads. The balcony shook noticeably as the crowd below and above moshed and danced to “Tweet Tweet Tweet,” a punk banger and a perfect end to a visit from across the pond: 10/10, would Sleaford again and the sooner, the better. —Rachel Brody | @RachelCBrody
Photos courtesy of Edwina Hay | thisisnotaphotograph.com