SLUG @ The Rainbow, Birmingham 28.10.15

Disco funk chewed up and spat out all dirty

Oct 28th, 2015 at The Rainbow, Birmingham / By Ian Stanley
SLUG Much loved by BBC Radio 6 SLUG released his debut album Ripe earlier this year, and with a new backing band in toe – the Brewis brothers from Field Music are no more – SLUG tested the lettuce at The Rainbow in Birmingham to a small, if appreciative crowd and two chavs.

In support, The Rainbow is treated to the slightly bizarre spectacle of a man playing along to a singing TV on stage from Manchester’s TVAM. As the TV plays surreal blurs from the eighties to his right he plays driving, fuzzing, psychedelic Graham Coxon guitar, while looking like Graham Coxon and singing, occasionally, like a mumbling Graham Coxon. The effect is a thick fuzzbox of psychedelic sound. And a bit like watching Graham Coxon.

As for SLUG, he appears on stage quietly to a growing crowd dressed in a white bow tied tuxedo and looking like an orchestra conductor, with the rest of the band in scout uniforms. Tuning commences. There’s shuffling and a mild technical setback, so the first thing lead singer and SLUG creator Ian Black, says in broad mackam accent is, “As if I just waited like Bon Jovi for people to come do it for us. What a dickhead.”

One of SLUG’s most recognisable songs kicks off the show. ‘Cockeyed Rabbit’ with its funk driven riffs and tight solo’s – SLUG live has a surprising amount of solos – provides a platform to warm up The Rainbow and the band. At solo Ian Black A.K.A SLUG stretches his fingers and crunches his legs to bend the high notes on his knees. In full conductor garb, it’s like watching an Eton school boy rock out in a dirty club.

‘Greasy Mind’ works incredibly well with the choral chants and beeping, bubbling synth chorus providing a slight change to the rest of SLUG’s set. ‘Shake Your Loose Teeth’ however, while its chorus sounds fresh, clean and dominant on the album Ripe is a little lost due to the muddiness of the sound levels. It seems like most of the high harmonies are always stepping back into the main music.

This has been a wonderfully strange night at The Rainbow. SLUG’s music is much more guitar driven and produced by a traditional band set up than its recording may suggest. And as if to top it off two chavs at the front are smashed, getting drunker and trying to be annoying – it’s dealt with perfectly by Black. And if Black couldn’t silence them, one solitary man expressing extreme delight at seeing SLUG through the median of interpretive dance sees them off.

The energy of performance, dress coordination and audience interaction of SLUG is what makes this band. Zipping through 10 or 11 songs there is a marked difference between the way that older, better ingrained songs go off without a hitch and how the new songs or covers seem slightly laboured. With less theatre. The songs may be the same as on Ripe and with a straight performance, not too different, but the live version of SLUG highlights the choral hoots and delivers an angular brand of disco funk chewed up and spat out all dirty.