For a second night in a row St James Guernsey welcomed a visiting act to their stage to deliver a potentially rather special performance as part of their Global Collection series – in this case UK Britpop heroes Sleeper, in stripped back, semi-acoustic mode, with support coming from Tantale and Lula & Gene.
With a more restrained sound than usual to match the semi-acoustic feel of the night, Lula & Gene started proceedings with a set packed with new originals, along with a couple of covers.
It was clear that many in attendance weren’t familiar with the duo but they were drawn in as the set went on.
While I may have missed a couple of their regular covers, it was great to hear them developing their own songs and it was clear both Maisie (bass and vocals) and Brett (drums) were having a great time getting to play them to a big audience, which was infectious.
With their fourth studio album due for release just a few days later, Tantale took to the stage for a rare acoustic set and with a stand in drummer behind the kit (though it being Barney Bean of The Bensons and SkySkrapers meant they were in safe hands).
With the look and feel of the classic MTV Unplugged shows from the mid-90s Steve (guitar and vocals), Louis (guitar and vocals) and Matt (bass and vocals) were more relaxed and chatty than ever as they took us through a set spanning their whole time as band.
Playing the songs in this way revealed different aspects of them when compared to their full psychedelic grunge sound, with Steve and Louis finding a great way to make the two acoustic guitars work together with suitable restraint but not losing the songs’ initial power.
While more established than most bands on the current scene it was clear that many in the audience were hearing the band in this way for the first time and it seemed they won plenty of new fans and left me thinking an MTV Unplugged style full show and album would be a great idea (though I recognise the challenging practicalities of that idea).
Over the last few months I have noted the increase in 90s nostalgia based events seemingly replacing 80s nostalgia events, not least a previous appearance by tonight’s headliner’s frontwoman here with her podcast and a show from Republica, and this looked set to follow a similar path.
Taking to the stage as a three-piece comprising all original members of the band, Sleeper tonight were Louise Wener (vocals), Jon Stewart (lead guitar) and Andy Maclure (acoustic guitar and percussion) and, in this mode, they took us on a journey through their career from 1993’s Smart to 2021’s This Time Tomorrow.
Delivering their performance as they did made it feel far more than just a nostalgic rehash of past glories which instantly made for a great tone and mood while playing the songs, including all the obvious hits, in this way really served to demonstrate the ear for a tune the band clearly have as it wasn’t lost in the noise and energy of a full scale show (though I’m sure that would be just as enjoyable).