31st January 2020
Review & Photography by Ryan Whitwell / shotison.com
Sleep Token are a band that seems to be getting quite a bit of attention at the moment. Tonight was a sell-out date in Islington Assembly Hall and the final date of their tour, joined by Poisonous Birds and Bledig.
Sultry tones and downbeat vibes would kick things off as Bledig got things going. Opening with a somewhat dystopian medley of right-wing politician quotes (Trump, Johnson and mentions of Brexit included), it offered a peculiar mood before the music started.
Their set had a jazzy feel with some moments feeling improvised, in which the singer seemed to just harmonise with the keyboard player as the drums kept some tricky beats going.
Having never heard them before I was surprised their smooth tones were the opening act for something that is more towards the “metal” side of things, but I was far from disappointed. The mood was oftentimes very macabre as the minor keys rang out and a sinister air was hinted at.
The penultimate song featured a bass sequence loop that added a peculiar feeling of impending dread. It gave me an anxious feeling and I kind of loved it. The whole set managed to give emotional responses of different kinds, but anxious seemed to be the mood of the day for other reasons, so that seemed to be the default vibe towards the end of the set.
Poisonous Birds were next up and offered a blend of all sorts of things and was inline with Sleep Token’s sound. Some EDM, indie, metal, goth, maybe some grunge, all in a very interesting package.
The setlist felt pretty varied, with some dancy beats and more mellow tones, it was a step outside my own comfort zone for the most part but there was a lot going on, and after leaving the photo pit (after focusing on dealing with some very tricky lighting choices) I quite enjoyed just listening to what they were putting out.
Some disjointed beats and drifting tones from the three-piece kept my attention. It had an unpredictable aspect running throughout the set with anthemic crescendos, tonal shifts and progressions pairing well with some emotive vocals.
Mysterious cloaked figures with masked faces walked onto the stage after an interval of ambient music between bands. The crowd were clearly up for what was to come from Sleep Token.
Where do you begin with a band like Sleep Token? Such a mixture of influences and genres. Jazz, metal, emo, soul, the genre vibes shift so quickly at times that it is hard to keep up. It’s quite the experience, made better by the sheer number of fans in the packed out Islington Assembly Hall. Much of the crowd sounded like they were trying to sing over the vocals ringing from the PA, such was their excitement!
The music was eclectic, as expected, but every song went down a storm in the venue. The whole concept of genres seemingly lost meaning as the set pressed on and the variety of tones and emotions became apparent.
A particular stand out moment for me was a solo piano/vocal performance towards the latter end of the set. The fans agreed, as the song was met with rapturous applause.
The vocal talents were very impressive. A great range of octaves hit all the right vibrations with three backing vocalists adding depth when needed. The mix of electronic and more traditional instruments left a very blurry line, to the point I couldn’t tell if some elements were notes on strings with an effect, or a sample triggered elsewhere. But it didn’t matter, the overall sound was brilliant regardless of where the various sounds were coming from.
Every song had hands lifted and voices raised throughout the crowd, but “Higher” seemed to get a particularly strong response. Amazing scenes were made all the better (this will sound weird from a photographer) because of the backlighting and haze as the crowd were illuminated. Not the best conditions for shooting things on stage, but it had moments where it looked pretty good.
I thoroughly enjoyed the show. The atmosphere in the old theatre was brilliant and extremely positive. I met a couple of people in a nearby pub afterwards who absolutely loved every second, and I could see why, great sound, and some really good numbers performed expertly.
Sleep Token Setlist
The Night Does Not Belong to God
Say that you Will
Drag Me Under
When the Bough Breaks
Thread the Needle