LIVE REVIEW: Sleep Token, Poisonous Birds, Bledig, Islington Assembly Hall, London, 31/01/2020
Sleep Token is an enigma. The likes of which has never been seen with the kind of creative output and veil of mystery that could only come to fruition in this digital age. The band has successfully managed to remain completely anonymous and so intently private away from the stage that they have created a cult following that has now begun to spill into the mainstream and has begun to entice others in with its mystique and intriguing nature. Tonight London gathers in worship.
Bledig are the first band to grace the stage tonight and they certainly are an interesting choice. The music presented is of a high standard, although it appears that they are better suited to playing hotel restaurants and high society functions rather than this sort of event, as their jazzy lounge music fails to connect with the slowly filling room. 6/10
The second act Poisonous Birds are far more in keeping with the headliners this evening. They take to the stage under the spotlight and quickly set about showing the now quickly filling room what they are all about. Their music sees atmospheric, progressive rock music coming together with electronic influences in a way that strikes a chord with fans of bands such as Sleep Token. The music is enticing at first and very well written. However, during the latter stages of the set, the lack of variety on display sees a few people disengaging which is a shame given the amount of effort going into the performance. 7/10
The crowd now growing impatient has swollen to the point where there next to no space available in the main room of the venue. The band take to the stage donning dark cloaks and masks, basking in the warm glow of the stage lights. From the very opening notes of The Night Does Not Belong To God the frontman known only as Vessel has his adoring congregation eating out of the palm of his hands with the kind of ease that surpasses the band’s years. The line “the night comes down like heaven” grows in volume with every repetition with the inclusion of the female backing vocalists and the enthralled crowd and gives the words an even atmospheric feel, very much in keeping with the grand venue of tonight’s performance. The following track The Offering shows the other side of the groups sound with the thundering, low-end guitars and impressive drum work being in complete contrast to the serene and majestic vocal melodies being presented.
The track Levitate is a real highlight. The crowd are captivated to the point where you can hear a pin drop as the haunting keyboard sections echo around the old building and Vessel’s singing sores over the tranquil instrumentals. As the song grows towards its crescendo the venue comes to life and the emphatic crowd sing back the words with everything they can, this is indeed a spectacle. Sleep Token rely so little on outside influences in their live show such as lights and other effects which gives the songwriting a chance to present itself uninhibited and exactly as it was conceived. Another song that strikes a particular chord with the audience is the stand-alone single Jaws. The mass singalong is so loud and all-consuming that it can only be broken by the monolithic breakdown that closes out the song which showcases the groups ear for Meshuggah-inspired metallic elements and proves that they can fit into metal line ups as well as more radio-friendly bills.
Sugar is another revelation. A song that didn’t necessarily stand out on the album takes on a whole new life in the live setting and comes across as the kind of slow jam that you would expect in the middle of an R&B set, with its infectious mid-tempo chorus and rhythmic style.
Drag Me Under maintains the pace well and Vessel’s voice is simply transcendent. The fact that the front man can have an entire crowd under his spell without uttering a single word between songs is a testament to the kind of aura that has been so painstakingly created through Sleep Token’s media presence and keen sense of marketing, not to mention the flawless performances of their well-written songs and another prime example of that is the rendition of Nazareth from the superb extended play Two.
The band save the best for last this evening; A staggering performance of the closing song from Sundowning the colossal Blood Sport. The melancholy of the lyrics seeps through in the beautiful vocal performance showing exactly why the group chose to use this song to close out what has been a supremely successful sermon.
Sleep Token are a group that are on the ascension. The agonising beauty of tonight’s performance goes to show just how far this band has come in a short amount of time and the fact that this is the kind of stature that they are enjoying at this early stage in their career shows the sky truly is the limit. If Sleep Token is a cult, then please pass the Kool-Aid. This band are set to take over the world.
Gather and worship. 9/10
Written By: Rich Webb