Song's which showcased Saul’s softer delivery to hold up the fragility of the lyrics.
Waiting for Insecure Men to take the stage at Scala, on the first date of their European tour, I couldn’t help but wonder how the band would deal with the problematic aspects of the songs from their debut album, Insecure Men. The biggest problem that Ben and Saul were always going to have to contend with was the issue of the crowd singing along, and how they could frame that participation. Fortunately, it became clear over the course of the show that this was an intent-filled performance – one whose implications and participation had been heavily weighted and considered.
Opening with ‘Cliff Has Left the Building’, which singer Saul Adamczewski has described as being about “Operation Yew Tree’s greatest urban myth,” and also his favourite song from the album, set the tone for the performance for anyone unfamiliar with the band. Lyrics like “Cliff Richard sure looks pretty/And he runs his fingers through my hair” established the kind of humour and offbeat subjects to expect lyrically, as well as the smoky-lounge vibe to the music. Following on from that, the band went through an at times brief jaunt through the rest of the album. Adamczewski’s vocals flowed easily through the songs with band-mate Ben Romans-Hopcraft’s harmonies grounding them gorgeously. An amusing touch came during ‘All Women Love Me’ as projected behind the band was footage of Donald Trump and various other world leaders and dictators, along with footage of body-builders competing. The toxic masculinity explored in the song and the bravado and arrogance of the song’s protagonist came to the forefront with their presence onstage.
And here is where the idea of an intent-filled performance comes from, with each song’s visuals clearly picked to underline the themes of the songs that were perhaps veiled in irony or sarcasm or satire. Take, for example, the songs ‘Mekong Glitter’ and ‘Teenage Toy,’ whose performances were very clearly orchestrated to highlight the difficult content of the songs. During ‘Mekong Glitter,’ which deals with Gary Glitter paedophilia, the visuals cycled between images of Glitter performing live, strippers lounging around a pole, and young (around 8 years old) fans waiting outside a concert venue. While the juxtaposition felt a bit overdone, it was hauntingly effective. This was especially so towards the end, with the song’s crescendo, as the clips became shorter cycled faster between the same three shots of two young fans, one stripper, and Glitter breathing heavily with his eyes closed. Simultaneously came the most confronting moment of the concert as ‘Mekong Glitter’s final lyrics, “Why/Don’t you ever ask why?”, thundered out at the crowd and the lights turned away from the band and on to the audience. We were literally put in the spotlight, with the band imploring a response that we couldn’t give. Adamczewski’s and Romans-Hopcraft’s eye-contact heightened it all, contrasting the rest of the performance during which their eyes hovered above the mass of people in front of them. As the last notes of the song rang out Glitter opened his eyes and peered down the camera lens at us. A distinctly, and effectively, uncomfortable moment.
‘Teenage Toy’s subsequent performance highlighted its own skin-crawling chorus of “Teenage toy, teenage toy/ Messing around with all the older boys.” The song had easily the largest singalong of the night as the crowd of drunken men, and it was mostly men, chanted along with the band, whose own delivery seemed a little more sombre than that on the album. Romans-Hopcraft almost appeared to grimace, hearing the words so joyfully shouted back at him from a mass of dancing bodies. Perhaps the hope was that the audience would consider the words they sang, on their way home, as they reminisced about the performance and hummed the lines without the crowd mentality hurling them along. Hopefully the retrospective reactions to ‘Mekong Glitter’ and ‘Teenage Toy’ would be just as strong as the reaction during the show, albeit in the opposite direction.
'Heathrow’s performance was mildly disappointing because the best part of the song was rushed through, the slow gradual decay of the song was over too quickly and we were left with a song that merely swapped from moderately paced to slow, instead of inching its way down to a death crawl. Wonderfully, Adamczewski’s Fat White Family band-mate Lias Saoudi joined the band to perform vocals for ‘Ulster’ – a fitting choice since he wrote the lyrics and it was originally intended to be a FWF track anyway. Interestingly, considering the band started with Adamczewski becoming obsessed with a keyboard, Adamczewski favoured a guitar for the performance. The whole thing ended as the album does, with the gorgeous ‘Buried in the Bleak’. The band walked offstage as the keyboardist plunked out the final few notes of the song’s carousel-riff, before scampering off after the band. While Adamczewski may have said that he didn’t much want to tour because “it’s boring and makes music bad” the songs didn’t suffer at all, and the performance was a brilliantly self-assured one that anyone should attempt to see given the chance.