Slaves’ entrance into the Barrowlands concert hall was one of the most memorable appearances I’ve seen in a while. The band opened their set with “Sockets”, sporting guitar riffs that rolled – not quite seamlessly, but nonetheless imposingly – off of the Vengaboys’ monumental hit We Like To Party (admit it, you loved it too). A combination of the support acts, early 00s Eurodance music, flashing strobe lights and the inevitable rhythmic beat of the “Cha-Cha Slide” divided the crowd, at least superficially, in a contrasting dichotomy of energetic, potentially inebriated youth versus their more restrained older cohort, bobbing about with limited flailing of limbs – suitably pumped for the performance ahead.
There are only two people on stage but their forceful presence reverberates through the hall. Isaac bellows the lyrics down the mic and beats the drums simultaneously while standing, and although Laurie’s presence is a little less commandeering, he is all the more engrossed in his delivery. A few songs in, Isaac addresses the crowd, which is a big plus in my books. It’s an easy way to engage with a crowd on a more personal level, but not all musicians put in the effort. He refers to the beginning of Slaves’ journey, and the questions people would ask them, over and over again: “Who are you? Why are there only two of you? Where are your hi-hats?” before triumphantly roaring “Well look at us now! Glasgow, you know what to do: Fuck The Hi-Hats!” Queue song.
Every song has the crowd thundering along. “Cheer Up London” is affectionately dedicated to “all the miserable wankers in London, all the miserable wankers in Glasgow, all the miserable wankers worldwide!” and goes down predictably well. The constant, vigorous high-speed makes the occasional slow down stand out, juxtaposing easy verse with crashing chorus. The somewhat moderately paced “Photo Opportunity” and “Chokehold” come to mind, the latter upended so it revolves around the second last verse. Live modifications are another favourite of mine, an addition that distinguishes a technically flawless gig from an enjoyable, worthwhile one.
It’s difficult not to have your entire attention span consumed by Isaac’s presence. Whether this is because he paces furiously to and fro, rage channelled into the hypnotic thumping of the drums, lyrics exploding with unrelenting energy, or simply because he’s shirtless, I’m not sure. Probably 50%-50%. In comparison, even Laurie’s powerful guitar shredding doesn’t quite measure up. This changes, however, when the duo joins vocals for “Cut And Run”, engendering a small, but equalising shift in dynamic.
Slaves play a fair number of songs from their whole musical history, catering to old fans and newcomers alike. The closing track can only really be none other than “The Hunter”, and it provokes a last frenetic burst of united debauchery. Fast-paced punk gigs tend to be inherently all-consuming, and Slaves definitely delivered. Beers soared through the air, the pit was consistently raging, and there were way too many sweaty bodies. Would recommend.
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