I wanted to simply write “Wow!” for this review and end it there because this was a fitting way to describe what I witnessed tonight. However, I thought I should elaborate a bit more. This was my third review in the space of a week, and it was a band whose reputation precedes them.
Fat White Family have always intrigued me, especially their journey to this point. Having released some extremely alternative albums towards the start of the decade their third offering “Serfs Up” is definitely up there as one of the albums of this year for me. The 7 piece initially based in South London, now based in Sheffield, has been heralded for the intensity of their live show and having seen them at Green Man Festival earlier this year I was keen to see them with a dedicated fan base.
The support act was Pregoblin, a duo that I’ve not heard before. I was speaking to someone before the show, and he described them as “a pair of nutters that won’t get off the karaoke” and that intrigued me without any doubt. The male and female duo don’t play any instruments on stage, they just sing alongside a computer playing a backing track. As they moved through their 30-minute set, we were greeted with a mix of punchy pop-rock to power-pop ballads. I’m reasonably convinced that they are the only band I’ve heard that have sung “Tunbridge Wells” repeatedly at the end of a track. It was bonkers, but it actually grabbed people as the venue started to fill up. They were unique and contrasted the ferocity of the rest of the evening.
We welcomed the Fat White Family to the Institute 2 stage in “the dark heart of England” (as referred to by Saul Addamczewski vocalist and guitar player) just after 9 pm. The second stage of the O2 Institute, although a much more intimate affair than the main room was a perfect setting for the madness that I witnessed tonight. I actually don’t think that frontman Lias Saoudi could have performed in quite the same way if it had been in the main room.
In some ways, you could compare the set that they delivered to a five-course meal in a five-star restaurant that was being ravaged by a hungry mob. The appetiser “Auto Neutron” from the debut album “Champagne Holocaust” was a wonderfully chilled yet fabulously intense start to the night as the track built. This was followed by starter single “I Am Mark E. Smith” which started to enamour the fans with a bit of a sing-a-long and an early albeit slow-moving mosh pit. Then we began the main course, which was set to deliver a fabulous meal for a multitude of tastes. It started with our first glimpse of sophomore album “Songs for our Mothers” with “Tinfoil Deathstar”, and it certainly ramped up the evening. Leaning over the barrier into the crowd wasn’t enough for Lias. Instead, he got amongst the crowd and up onto the bar while continuing to sing throughout the excitable fans. I don’t think I have seen a frontman ever do this, and he didn’t just do it once – it was brilliant!
Throughout the main course, we were treated to most of the tracks that you would expect. They mixed up tracks from their early days including single “Touch The Leather”, “Hits Hits Hits” and “Cream of The Young” (where Lias joined the fans again). There were also a few surprises like “The Drones” – a b-side to “Whitest Boy On The Beach”, where Alex White switched his saxophone to a flute and Saul told us to “chat amongst ourselves” over the long intro. Goodbye Goebbels ended this course leaving us poised for more. It was wonderfully simple in its execution with it initially being all about Saul taking centre stage and the rest of the band joining in throughout the song.
We then moved onto the dessert, perhaps the most crucial part of any meal for most people and it was the same with the tracks that we were treated to. And they were indeed sweet treats with four tracks from their latest album, and the wonderful 1min 30seconds of Special Ape. All of these tracks were massive, with the new album definitely raising the venue the most. “Feet” was as intense as you would expect it to be with a room full of fans and an excitable frontman that just wanted to be in amongst it from the moment the track began. I’m sure at one point Lias was just lost in the crowd, and the band just kept on playing until he was found. Whitest Boy on the Beach continued to fulfil the cravings from the enthusiastic audience.
For the second time this week I was at a gig where there was no encore, but it ended with the perfect after-dinner brandy a song which Saul claimed: “I don’t know what this song is about, but it’s probably something toxic”. It’s monotonic drive, undeniable repetition and bluesy guitars delivered a perfect ending. Support band Pregoblin joined them on stage to help participate in the finale of fun, and Lias ended the evening with a plethora of blown kisses.
I expected something exciting from this evening, but I was greeted with so much more. This was an intensity greater than I have ever experienced from a live performance, and it’s going to be hard to beat. Fat White Family are easily one of the best bands that I have ever seen live.
I Am Mark E Smith
Heaven on Earth
Touch the Leather
Hits Hits Hits
Cream of the Young
When I Leave
I Believe In Something Better
Whitest Boy on the Beach
Is It Raining in Your Mouth?
Reviewer: Imran Khan
Photographer: Ian Dunn