Friday 10 March 2023

The Slow Readers Club - Glasgow SWG3 / Aberdeen Lemon Tree - 6th/7th March 2023

In support of exceptional new album Knowledge Freedom Power, Manchester’s The Slow Readers Club visited Scotland earlier in the week for a double header, turning cold nights into massed celebrations. Stuart Ralston braved the snow and cold to report back from Glasgow and Aberdeen.

With their sixth album proudly sitting in the charts, The Slow Readers Club begin the second week of their massive UK and European tour with a couple of Scottish shows beginning in Glasgow. 

With the demise of the much missed ABC venue in the city centre, more and more bands are playing just out of town at the SWG3 complex in Finnieston. Tonight the Readers are playing the curiously named TV Studio - it’s not a TV studio by any means - but it’s a big old space and on a cold Monday evening, a crowd of around 1,000 have assembled by the time the lads take the stage. A long drive after work means we miss all but a few minutes of Andrew Cushin’s well received acoustic set. He sounds in fine voice and we hope to catch him soon (he said he’d be back in Glasgow with his band in October).

Tonight’s show gets underway with Modernise after an impressive remixed introduction playing over the PA before the Readers take to the stage (we look forward to this being released as some point). From the off, both crowd and band are on fire and for the next hour, the main set is fully charged with some of the band’s most powerful songs. There’s no let up and band and audience relish every minute. 

Modernise is the perfect statement of intent to open a 2023 Readers show, one of the standout tracks from their wonderful new record, and a great band performance; a commanding Aaron vocal with brother Kurtis adding the mantra chorus, big trademark James bass lines and David’s military precision drumming. For lesser bands, a song such as Modernise would be a set highlight but for these lads it’s just the beginning. Many in the crowd sing along to each and every word. 

With six albums full of massive tunes, picking a set list must be difficult and tonight we get something from every album.  Fool For Your Philosophy - from my most played record of the past decade Cavalcade - is up next and sounds as fresh as ever. With its synth heavy intro, Fool is the perfect follow up track to Modernise and keeps both pace and intensity going; you can see the heritage between old and new here.

All I Hear has another commanding Aaron vocal as he owns the stage. The Greatest Escape is one of three 91 Days In Isolation tunes in the set tonight, and Aaron later comments that this was the only good thing to come out of lockdown; it might have derailed other bands but it only made The Slow Readers Club stronger. 

The Wait has never sounded so urgent or so good before new one How Could You Know slows the pace down, with Aaron takes to the keys. David’s drumming has touches of Stephen Morris and Kurtis harmonises beautifully on backing vocals. A storming Plant The Seed follows and as soon as that synth starts, there’s a massive acknowledgment from the crowd. 

The almost haunting Everything I Own has extra flourishes from David. Everything I Own showcases a darker, more gothic side to the band and is a set highlight. We notice that even the front of house sound engineer is applauding every tune! I’ve never seen that before. 

“You sound pretty up for it on a Monday night” remarks Aaron and gets a huge cheer from the crowd who love every minute. Forever In Your Debt is up next and sounds as if the band have slowed it down a little, which adds to the intensity and power of it. Jim is looking more like (early champion of the band and bass maestro) Peter Hook; menacing at times, yet grinning too and he is fixated on a punter singing ever word of Forever In Your Debt. There’s another powerful vocal from Aaron and a harder, darker edge to the sound, like a return to the earlier Omerta / debut album phase. Kurtis stars on Jericho before the next new one - Afterlife - with incredible drumming from David and it is even more powerful live than on record! Another set highlight. I’m not usually in favour of album tours but the quality of songs on Knowledge Freedom Power absolutely merits a full album show. Readers, take note.

The set draws to a close with On The TV and the crowd reaction is so strong that the band reprise it after they’ve finished!  Aaron thanks the audience and says they hope to be back to doing the band full time. Feet On Fire from the 2011 debut finishes things off and shows that that Readers songs are timeless. A huge cheers from the crowd ends proceedings before a four song encore.  It starts with another remixed intro. This time for I Saw A Ghost and again, we’d love to see that released too. Aaron encourages crowd to sing along which they do and Kurtis comments Glasgow are lively for a Monday night! If it’s like this on a cold Monday night, then the next stop in Glasgow has to be the celebrated Barrowland Ballroom.

When confronted with a band and a show this good, it doesn’t matter what shit is going on in the world. For 80 minutes, nothing else matters but the music and I’m glad I’m off to Aberdeen the next night to do it all again.

It’s our first visit to the impressive Lemon Tree and on looking round the venue, we note The Fall and Inspiral Carpets have graced the stage before. The Slow Readers Club are in fine company. Again, we only catch a few minutes of Andrew Cushin’s set as we had an even longer drive this evening but he goes down well with the crowd.

This is the band’s second visit to the city, the first being four years ago and The Lemon Tree has filled up nicely by the time Modernise gets the show underway. We were mightily impressed by the Glasgow show but tonight is somehow, remarkably even better. We can hear every bass line and guitar riff thanks to the Lemon Tree’s impressive crystal clear sound.

On the day the band announced a summer show in Leeds with Morrissey, it is a pleasure to spend the night in their company. As life long Smiths fans, we can imagine how the band must be feeling and recall the night watching them play the Carpe Diem pub in Leeds many years ago. What a journey. We are absolutely buzzing for them. 

Perhaps this announcement has galvanised the band and tonight’s show is fabulous. Playing the same set as Glasgow, tonight’s early set highlights include The Greatest Escape, How Could You Know and Jericho. Kurt’s guitar on the latter shines like never before.

The band look like they are having a ball and Aberdeen do too with many folk singing along. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an impressive performance from them. The queues at the merch desk both nights tell their own story; momentum continues to grow. Looking forward to doing it all again soon.

The Slow Readers Club's official website can be found here. They are also on Facebook and Twitter.

They tour in the Spring calling at : Birmingham O2 Academy 2 (March 10), Bristol Thekla (11), Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms (13), London Lafayette (14), Manchester Albert Hall (17), Berlin Lido (23), Hamburg Übel & Gefährlich (24), Antwerp Trix Club (25), Paris Supersonic (30), Rotterdam Rotown (31), Amsterdam Paradiso Tolhuistuin (April 1), Belfast Limelight 2 (14), Dublin Academy (15), Porto M.Ou.Co (29), Wrexham Rockin' Chair (June 30) and Holmfirth Picturedrome (July 2).


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