A week ago ( 05/10 ) I went to Gloucester's gorgeous Guildhall for what was ( rather depressingly ) my first gig of 2023 in my fave venue. For once, they were showcasing a "real" band and not the standard tribute acts which clog up the schedules these days. And it was the super, soaraway, slinky Sleeper! Smashing! ( All alliteration courtesy of some imagined British tabloid from the bad old days. )
This was an unplugged ( kind of ) gig, so a bit different from the two previous occasions I'd seen Louise Wener and co. - interesting...
As it turned out, this wasn't quite an unplugged gig as electric guitars and keyboards were deployed as well as their acoustic cousins. It was also structured almost as a theatre show with an intermission (!), a Q&A session with the band and, yes, the dreaded seats. I think this is only the third time I've been to a seated gig at the Guildhall in the 35 or so years I've been going there. ( I previously saw Robyn Hitchcock in such a setting only last year, as well as alt-Country band Lambchop many years ago. ) I think this set-up works for comedy or spoken-word gigs but not so much for rock concerts, even semi-acoustic ones like this.
But anyway, here were Sleeper with their effortlessly effervescent anthems, the likes of Lie Detector and Statuesque still sounding brash and bratty, even in this stripped-back format. Louise was in fine voice and, if anything, the lack of overpowering volume just highlighted her sensuous, breathy vocals. She was also clearly having a great time, as were the two guys. As she'd done at the Wychwood festival back in July, Louise thanked us for coming out to support live music and again said how the revitalised, 21st-century Sleeper hadn't known if they'd be welcomed back to the stage, but were thrilled that their audience was still there. The Q&A format prompted some entertaining stories as the band recalled the Britpop days and tales of being pulled over on the freeway by LA cops while extremely high, the accidental scratching of John Lennon's piano in George Michael's recording studio, and eating the cheese from Blur's rider and nearly getting thrown out of their support slot by an irate Alex James. That rock 'n' roll, eh?
While one or two of the songs didn't really benefit from the unplugged approach ( Nice Guy Eddie in particular was far too slow and dirge-y ) a lot of it worked really well: Inbetweener was still a cast-iron classic of suburban isolation, Alice In Vain was a tear-jerker, What Do I Do Now was reimagined as a mournful Country lament, and a singalong cover of Pixies' Wave Of Mutilation paid homage to one of the band's major inspirations. They finished with a crowd-pleasing Sale Of The Century, which finally got everyone out of those bloody seats and dancing. It had been a fun gig and lovely to see such close interaction between band and audience but I kind of missed the complete Sleeper experience. Hopefully I'll catch them again the next time they tour with the full band. Sarah was even less impressed than me so I hope this hasn't put her off seeing them again.
( Apologies for the dodgy photos. It all looks a bit blurred ( not Blurred, ha ha ) because the Guildhall's lights are so damn bright that they glare off people's faces. Plus my phone's rubbish. )