Review by Sam Jane with Photography by Wayne Fox

In a time when the country seems to be in a never-ending cycle of political chaos, it is nice to be reminded of a time when we were considered cool (and even a little rebellious). The Brit-Pop era of the 90s brought us Oasis, Blur, Pulp, Suede and, of course, Tony Blair. Amongst them, although never quite reaching the same giddy heights of stardom, were Sleeper. Reforming in the past couple of years, their reunion has resulted in a new album and sell-out gigs. It seems that they are living up to their name and are now finally getting the wider recognition that their music deserves.

Sleeper

We find ourselves at The Venue in Derby City tonight. A smaller venue than perhaps they are used to, the band use the opportunity to really interact with their fans.

First up though is Annabel Allum. Dressed in green boiler suits and looking like they’ve just stepped out of ‘Top Gun’, there is no denying she is a powerful force and no doubt one to watch. Her voice is strong, and the songs have depth – this is a woman with a lot to say and the world is going to listen. Just not tonight, perhaps. The crowd are politely interested, but it’s obvious that they are waiting patiently for the main event, who don’t keep them waiting too long.

Annabel Allum

It’s a credit to the band that they recognise their audience’s desire for the back catalogue as well as their latest tracks. Opening with Nice Guy Eddie, the crowd are pleased and are instantly transported back to their hay-day, dancing and singing along. Following it with Delicious compounds the atmosphere and the crowd has hit their stride before the first of the newer tracks. The newer songs go down well; this can be a difficult balancing act for a band, and it’s handled well. Indeed, Blue Like You (a consideration of the impact social media has on us) gets a great reaction. Lead-singer Louise had earlier commented that it was nice to see so many people simply watching the gig without the need to film it, again reminding us just how intimate this gig really is.

Sleeper

Sleeper

Having spent the years in-between reinventing herself into a successful novelist, it’s amazing to see how easily lead singer Louise Wener has slipped back into her role. It’s hard to believe that this is a woman in her mid-50s as she throws herself merrily around the stage, dragging the crowd effortlessly with her. Her charismatic nature certainly hasn’t faded over the years, and it means all eyes are firmly on her. Tonight, the men in the band are clearly enjoying themselves just as much as she is (indeed, Jon Stewart is wonderful to watch) and yet it’s Louise that the crowd is clearly entranced by, responding enthusiastically to her every comment. Wearing a Space Cowboy t-shirt, her casual style is a stark contrast to that of the earlier Annabel, and yet Louise’s effortless sense of fashion just emphasises the lack of pretension surrounding this group and it makes us love them more.

Sleeper

Sleeper

More old hits and newbies follow: Statuesque, Modern Age, Pyrotechnician, Sun Also Rises and Factor 41. Then their now-iconic rendition of Blondie’s Atomic thrills the crowd, an interesting segue into Joy Division part way through keeping it fresh. Ending the main set on Inbetweener is an excellent move and the crowd are eager for the expected encore.

And it’s no surprise to anyone that the encore features Look at You Now and Vegas, but it was always going to end with their most recognisable hit. Sale of the Century ensures that the gig ends on a real high and the crowd are buzzing as the lights come up.

Sleeper

Sleeper

And yet that is not the end of the night. One of the best features of the gig comes after many fans have left the venue. Coming out from back stage to pose for photos and chat to loyal fans, it’s clear that they are genuine with their thanks to those that have supported their return to the charts. It’s a lovely touch that reinforces the message that they are a band that doesn’t take anything for granted, especially their fans. In a time that is so unsettled and the future unsure, it is a welcome thought that some things don’t change.

Sleeper

SleeperSleeper

See the full photoset from tonight’s gig here.

One Response to “Sleeper + Annabel Allum at The Venue, Derby, UK – 4th April 2019”

  1. Seena Says:

    Good Post!

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