FAT WHITE FAMILY LIVE IN MANCHESTER – WHAT HAPPENED?

Nihilists, Nazi cosplayers, eccentrics, provocateurs, drug-addled jesters, and, if your thinking aligns with mine, one of the last remaining rock bands in the country. Fat White Family are many things and whatever way you choose to categorise them, which in their case it’s probably best not to try, it’s impossible to call them predictable.

Previous live shows have included the band appearing on stage with raw cuts of meat attached to their clothes, throwing offal into the crowd and for a period frontman, Lias Saoudi, settling on an SS uniform, swastikas and all, as his on-stage attire. Despite the band nearing their fourteenth year together, a landmark which has somehow been reached with no recorded fatalities, their UK tour date at Manchester’s New Century was no less bizarre or entertaining than expected. 

For a band that paid their dues by playing at the murkiest squats South London has to offer, my introduction to the venue was a fittingly debauched affair. On my way into the hall, I was witness to an amusing array of young and old attendees falling over their feet in drunk and drugged anticipation of seeing the (currently) Sheffield-based group.

The increasingly restless crowd, including Happy Mondays Bez, were subject to the sound of Robbie William’s ‘Angels’ through the speakers before frontman Saoudi emerged like a perverted Attitude Era WWE star, marching onto the stage with a jug of milk in one hand, beating his baby oil-covered bare chest with the other and donning a pair of skin coloured, high-waist leggings. Despite somewhat reining in the rock and roll lifestyle in recent years, trading heroin in favour of Martin Amis books and philosophy podcasts, the frontman showed little sign of curbing his on-stage theatrics.

The band’s pre-stage ritual still consists of tequila and a magic mushroom tincture and it can’t be doing the boys much harm, they sounded as tight as ever as they launched into the hauntingly catchy ‘Wet Hot Beef’. This set the mood for what was to be a down-and-dirty night of the highest calibre. 

Next up, the Fat White’s played ‘Without Consent’, another track from Champagne Holocaust, the group’s sublime debut album. This was followed by a thrashing rendition of ‘Tinfoil Deathstar’ and ‘Polygamy Is Only For the Chief’, the first track played from their newest album, Forgiveness Is Yours. Like 2019’s Serfs Up, their most recent record is full of sultry synthesisers, spoken word and dark visions of both past, present and future.

It is a shame it is rumoured to be their last. Saoudi’s live vocals were full of trademark moans, grunts and whines and at times the performance manifested into genre-blending renditions more akin to works of performance art. Another fan favourite, ‘Touch the Leather’ was an evident highlight and ‘I Am Mark E. Smith’, with its intrinsically northern lyrical request to ‘leave the kettle on’, went down especially well with the Manc crowd. 

Notably missing from the group’s lineup was Saul, the creative foil to frontman Lias, however, this recent departure did little to affect their performance. This was most evident during Saoudi’s rap-like rendition of ‘Today You Become A Man’, a rarely heard lamentation of unconsented circumcision written from the POV of his older brother’s childhood experience of the outdated practice in their parental nation, Algeria.

The hypnotic ‘Satisfied’ rocked the audience into a tranquil chant of its chorus, ‘I’m so easily satisfied’, and midway through its duration, Saoudi headed backstage only to return half a minute later slathered in a second coating of baby oil.

This was followed by ‘What’s That You Say’, a strange little track laden with a pop sensibility reminiscent of Pulp’s early work which when played live brought a sense of voyeurism and seductiveness. 

The electropop synths and crashing beats of ‘Fringe Runner’ allowed Saoudi to express some ironically sensual lyrics, ‘and it’s coming on soft…please don’t tell me that you think it’s enough’, as the front section of the crowd degenerated into a mismatched motion of flailing limbs. The audience were somewhat calmed by the wind instrument heavy ‘John Lennon’ and the mystical air it brought to the proceedings was only heightened by Saoudi’s skilful vocal performance.

The song’s lyrics have the frontman inhabiting the darker side of Lennon’s spirit as it recounts the real-life occasion when Yoko Ono told him he reminded her of the late Beatle. As the rendition progressed we were urged to ‘imagine that’ – the irony being that Sauodi’s ‘head full of K’ and ‘horse tranquil’ frame of mind when formulating the lyrics make it difficult to do so. 

The latter stage of the night included ‘Feet’ and ‘Work’ and ‘Whitest Boy on the Beach’ which displayed the band’s more accessible side and guided the night towards its culmination with a rapturous period of crowd surfing, mosh pits and pogo dancing. The Fat Whites brought the night to a finish with the surprise inclusion of the jangly country rock-infused ‘Bomb Disneyland’, the chorus of which was carried by the crowd into New Century’s smoking area upon exiting the venue. Despite their reputation for recklessness, the band were anything but sloppy.

They put on an incredible showing and proved themselves to be one of the nation’s best live acts. I urge everyone reading to see this band if the opportunity arises and in the words Fat White Family themselves: ‘By purchasing tickets to see this band live, you are responsible for maintaining that delicate, elegant equilibrium…’. 

WORDS AND PHOTOS BY SAM RODGERS

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By mykct