The first of The Slow Readers Club's two night homecoming at Manchester's Ritz, the scene of one of their many breakthrough performances over the past few years, felt very much like an intimate show, a band stepping down from their natural habitat and delivering a show of passion and intensity that was arena-sized but still connected to their fervent fan base. Support came from Jordan Allen.
Jordan Allen is riding on a wave at present and it's very evident that there's so much confidence in the new five-piece band he's assembled, having sold out Gorilla across the road months in advance, secured this sought after tour slot and announced his own show in here for next year. That confidence feeds into the energy in their half-hour set, filled non-stop with the sort of anthems that will get a crowd younger than this one flinging themselves around the room.
The response from The Slow Readers Club's crowd might be less energetic, but it's not less warm or enthusiastic as they run through older favourites like Imperial Leather Drama, 110 Ways To Make Things Better, Helter Skelter and the set-closing Rosie. Recent comeback single Never Give It Up and its follow up The Rapture, a song that he tells us they're massively proud of and rightly so, mark a step up though, like there's a new opportunity been placed in front of them that they want to grab with both hands. You can even forgive Jordan himself a slight over-exuberance in parts because he's living a dream he's worked hard for over many years now and the reward feels like it's closer than ever.
There's a real sense of anticipation as the minutes count down to the arrival of The Slow Readers Club and the "READERS" chants reverberate around this venue. Once upon playing here was nothing but a pipe dream for the band, but having travelled through here on their way to selling out the Apollo months in advance, the celebration is more about a successful year where they've gone full-time, toured Europe for the first time, built new audiences, recorded their fourth album that's ready to drop early in the new year. It's like a return to old haunts and a reminder of just how far they've come.
Where once there was a nervous band worried if they'd bitten off more than they could chew, The Slow Readers Club that is entering 2020 is a supremely confident and tight band, fully cognisant of the uplifting euphoria of these songs and the dedication of their fan base that they've acquired along the way from the hard core that picked up on their 2011 debut, which still provides some real highlights in the set eight years on, those that jumped on board at Academy 3, Gorilla or here with their breakthrough self-released Cavalcade or those that the tour with James and the belated attention from local and national radio and press drew in with the unexpected Top 20 success of their last album Build A Tower.
They start with On The TV, the song that finished so many shows this year sending the audience out bouncing and repeating its infectiously catchy hook line. That they can throw it in first is testament to just how many songs they have that possess the anthemic qualities that have made them the favourite band of so many people in this room. You don't just become a Slow Readers Club fan, it's more an addiction, almost a cult, everyone dressed in the band's merchandise and knowing every word to every song and most of the people around them on first name terms.
These songs sound as big as you'd imagined them when they were playing to a dozen of us in The Castle or the Night And Day. Whilst their set-closing Lunatic might be in the final of local station XS Manchester's song of the decade, Forever In Your Debt probably deserves that accolade and there's I Saw A Ghost, Sirens, Feet On Fire, Start Again, You Opened Up My Heart and a dozen more queuing to fight their corner. And whilst they've got this impressive battery of anthems, they can also slow it down with the likes of Never Said I Was The Only One and the resurrected Don't Mind where Aaron takes to the keyboards and stretch the boundaries of their sound with Distant Memory where they let loose over the song's frenetic ending.
There's two new songs too from their forthcoming fourth album that is ready to go "early next year". The Wait was revealed earlier this year and goes down like an old faithful favourite and has blossomed over time and their ability to spend more time working on their art these days. Problem Child has, like most of their songs, a hook that draws you in from the very first listen, an immediacy that is exactly the reason why so many have connected with The Slow Readers Club so quickly once they've been belatedly exposed to them.
The Slow Readers Club have captured a massive wave of goodwill in their hometown over the past few years, following in the footsteps of decades of beloved musical giants that have written the past fifty years of the cultural history of the greatest city on the planet. They encapsulate the spirit of never giving up, fighting for what you believe in despite being the underdog and eventually succeeding - and that is truly magical to behold.
They played On The TV, Fool For Your Philosophy, The Wait, Sirens, Supernatural, Lives Never Known, Never Said I Was The Only One, Don't Mind, Start Again, I Saw A Ghost, Grace Of God, You Opened Up My Heart, Plant The Seed, Know The Day Will Come, Problem Child, Block Out The Sun, Distant Memory, Feet On Fire, Forever In Your Debt and Lunatic.
The Slow Readers Club's official website can be found here. They are also on Facebook and Twitter.
Jordan Allen is on Facebook and Twitter and has announced his biggest ever show at Manchester Ritz on April 24.