Friday night at the O2 Academy in Leeds and it is packed with 40–50 somethings keen to rekindle some memories of ’95-’97 Cool Britannia and the BRIT Pop Queen Louise Wener.
Sleeper emerged from a very deep one in 2017 and reformed for the “Star Shaped Festival” tour, and, as they enjoyed those shows so much, they decided to stay awake a little longer, culminating in recording two new albums, The Modern Age and This Time Tomorrow – now several more UK tours later we find them on the opening night of “The It Girl” tour. Celebrating Its 25th Anniversary, they will play the album in full plus more hits from their other albums.
First though, The Lottery Winners are supporting, and it has been a few years since I last saw them at Kendal Calling, this is a real treat for anyone that hasn’t seen them before as Thom Rylance is one of the funniest frontmen around – the show rapidly becomes part comedy/part music as his guitar strap keeps breaking and he spots me as the photographer in the pit to pull some classic rock god poses. The catchiest pop-rock choruses around mean that they have this audience in the palm of their hands and nearly every song has a crowd sing back refrain. Brilliant, funny and everyone here has a smile on their face, perfect support for Sleeper.
Louise Wener appears to have changed little in the intervening 25-year absence and stands looking trim, very fit (in all senses of the word) wearing a white Clara Bow photo T-shirt, slinky shiny silver dress and boots. Sure, there are a few wrinkles here and there but who hasn’t at 55 years and 2 kids.
When you open with “Lie Detector,” “Sale of the Century” and the colossal “What Do I Do Now,” some of their biggest hits in that 1995-7 period, you might think they have peaked a little too early. Let’s face it they really came and went so fast in the mid-nineties that if you weren’t around during that time you missed out on some of the catchiest pure indie pop from a UK band.
Guitarist Jon Stewart is smiling and laughing whilst hopping from one leg to the other in some bizarre wild flamingo mating ritual, whilst drummer (and husband of Wener) Andy Maclure watches on, constantly bouncing up and down on his chair.
“Dress Like Your Mother,” “Nice Guy Eddie” and “Statuesque” all kept the happy faithful crowd moving at the front; some may even have spilled a bit of their two-pinters in the frenetic dancing and recall of long-lost lyrics like “Make-up like glue, she danced around the room, to the sound of her corduroy flares.” Great tunes, instant memories of a simpler time when social media didn’t get in the way of having a good night out, although ironically much of it tonight being recorded and watched through aloft smartphones.
As well as the hit singles in the setlist we have a few well-chosen covers, most notably Blondie’s “Atomic” which sounded superb and completely made for this band. It did make an appearance on the “Trainspotting” soundtrack, so not really a surprise that it is included in the live set. To segue a brief chorus of “Love Will Tear Us Apart” within the track was inspired though, greeted with euphoria here in Leeds and the singing back was louder than the band themselves. Lou Reed’s “Satellite of Love” is another contained within “Feeling Peaky.” The finale is my personal favourite “Inbetweener” the story-styled lyrics to this song are a work of art, no wonder Wener went on to be a writer in the 2000s – Go read them!
Louise Wener and the “SleeperBlokes” did everything tonight to ensure the nostalgia trip continues and our Brit Pop Queen is still reigning.
Sleeper Set List:
1. Lie Detector
2. Sale of the Century
3. What Do I Do Now?
4. Good Luck Mr Gorsky
5. Feeling Peaky
7. Dress Like Your Mother
9. Glue Ears
10. Nice Guy Eddie
11. Stop Your Crying
12. Factor 41
15. The Sun Also Rises
17. Look at You Now
18. Atomic/Love Will Tear Us Apart
20. Sale of the Century (reprise)