Having only seen Sleaford Mods' live show once before, and at a questionable festival of psychedelia at that, the prospect of seeing them on their own tour is an exciting one. Rarely has a modern band polarised audiences to such an extent, though given the Mods' propensity for telling it like it is, for drawing attention to an ever-widening class divide, that shouldn't come as a surprise.
What does come as a surprise however, as we enter Manchester Academy a little before the band take to the stage tonight (27 October), is that the show isn't sold out, and several times we were offered free tickets for nothing outside. Whether this is down to the band's polarising politics can't be said, but this is Manchester, a city in which Tory influence is manifest in the dozens of rough sleepers on the walk between station and venue; in which numerous organisations have been set up to help such people, and a city which, in spite of those organisations, has seen its poverty skyrocket in the last five years. A little more solidarity wouldn't go amiss, Manchester.
Fortunately, the same can't be said for Sleaford Mods themselves, who urge the audience to donate to Trussell Trust's Manchester food bank, personifying the social consciousness that's played a big part in the Mods' recorded output. As such, it plays a big part in tonight's set too, with tracks such as "Jobseeker" wryly highlighting the issues which plague those less fortunate than us, both those imposed by the state, and those imposed on themselves.
At first the duo seem somewhat dwarfed by the larger stage, taking a couple of tracks to really break in to their stride. Producer Andrew Fearn remains almost stationary for the hour long set, hunched over his laptop, beer bottle in one hand, the other poised over the play button as he bobs metronomically to the beat. Jason Williamson on the other hand stalks the stage with ease, his mannerisms, though awkward and somewhat angular, reflect his acerbic and staccato vocal delivery.
Tonight, it's the new material where the duo really seem to come in to their own. Both "T.C.R" and "I Can Tell", taken from their latest EP, harbour much more venom than their recorded counterparts, the latter in particular sees Williamson delivering his bars with the most vehemence yet.
In 2016, a year where it feels like our country is almost quite certainly going to shit, Sleaford Mods are an expletive-laden mouthpiece for the disenfranchised and the under-represented. And while it's difficult to convey the genuine passion the band have for their social commentary on record, for anyone in attendence tonight it's glaringly obvious. If only more bands had similar fire in their belly.