Written for Epigram
‘Who was at the Bierkeller? Who was at Colston Hall?’ asks frontman Aaron Starkie. There are plenty of cheers in response to each question, but having played Dot to Dot festival earlier this year, and supporting James in 2016, The Slow Readers Club’s Thekla gig is sold out, and their biggest Bristol show to date.
There is a brilliant affection for the Manchester four-piece, shown in the hordes of fans decked out in the band’s customary t-shirts and in the shouts of “READERS” that welcome them to the stage and punctuate every song.
From the minute they walk on and launch into the first bars of ‘Fool for Your Philosophy’, the band hold a striking command over their audience. In the opening track, Starkie sings “What am I, what are we / Are we shades of mediocrity?”. Their seventy-minute set shows that are anything but mediocre – they are one of the country’s most exciting rising bands.
When The Slow Readers Club played the Bierkeller in May, ‘Plant the Seed’ was the biggest moment of the night. Six months on, and the 2015 single is still a highlight, but it is followed in the setlist by ‘Lunatic’, the band’s most recent single and now rival to the title of standout track. Despite being released only a matter of weeks ago, most of the audience sing along to every word.
More impressive still is that there’s a fair portion of the audience who sing along to the new tracks that have only been played live so far, something that proves that if you see The Slow Readers Club once, you come back to see them again and again. Spread through the middle of the setlist, the new material more than holds its own against songs from their first two albums. ‘Through the Shadows’ is one of the band’s slower tracks, but there’s no drop in intensity or power. ‘Open Up My Heart’ is simply beautiful – you don’t need a crystal ball to tell that it will be making radio playlists in the coming months.
As the set draws to a close, the setlist returns to 2015’s Cavalcade. Jim Ryan’s gloriously stubborn bassline powers unabashed love song ‘Forever in Your Debt’. One of the things that makes this band so special is that they have both the rousing choruses and the lyrical substance to back them up.
The Slow Readers Club’s third album is due next spring, so with any luck, it won’t be long before they are back in this city. But with this gig and their entire UK tour sold out, the next time we see them in the South West will be on a much bigger stage.