In a recent interview, Slaves said that they admired The Cribs touring ethic as they “do the small shows and the big shows to maintain the balance”. From this admiration spawned the Back in the Van tour – a fifteen date tour of some of the UK’s smallest venues as far reaching as Penzance with tickets costing as little as £1.99. Brilliant, a big band going back to their roots to treat fans before they play the decent venues of the huge cities, what more could you ask for? The answer: a lot.
For starters it feels like the whole show can’t make its mind up whether it’s a genuine gesture to the fans or a cheap sell out to promote their upcoming tour. The setlist did lean slightly towards the former as older cuts ‘Beauty Quest’, ‘White Knuckle Ride’ and ‘Girl Fight’ off the Sugar Coated Bitter Truth EP and Where’s Your Car Debbie? B-side ‘OK’ all got an airing. Yet new track ‘Rich Man’ is genuinely awful. It’s chorus of “Rich Man / I’m not your bitch man” is possibly the most hollow statement that could be made by a supposed punk band signed to Virgin EMI and on a tour sponsored by a big clothing company, which you’re also constantly reminded of thanks to a big fuck off illuminous sign on the merch table.
Overall the night isn’t a huge disaster though. The crowd lap up the big hits of ‘Cheer up London’, ‘Hey’ and ‘The Hunter’, screaming them back at the band. Likewise, Slaves still sound as loud and in your face as humanly possible but things feel laboured. You get the impression that the duo are trying too hard to convince everyone they’re enjoying themselves but instead it comes across like the band have been forced into the tour.
Clocking in at a slim 45 minutes the set leaves a lot more to be desired, which was probably the whole intention, but the shortness of the set doesn’t leave a sour taste in the mouth of the crowd. Maybe they’re less cynical or maybe it’s simply because nobody can complain about not getting their money’s worth. Who knows, but one things for sure; Slaves need to book their ideas up before their main tour in November otherwise it could leave a lot more people relatively unsatisfied.