Sometimes circumstances conspire perfectly to create an experience which just feels … right. And perhaps never to be repeated. The evening of 14th March felt like one of those time for me.

Lafayette is a lovely space: an almost new venue, from the founders of Omeara, nestled just to the north of King’s Cross station. It’s 600 capacity, with a top-quality sound system, plenty of bar areas and pleasant toilets. Just the right choice of venue for the artists I’d come to see.

Andrew Cushin stepped on stage with the sort of laid-back confidence many more experienced musicians can only dream of. The Geordie star is definitely on the rise, and you can feel that through every word he sings, and every gently abrasive joke he tells. 

Andrew delivered an impressive 30-minute warm-up set, just him and his acoustic guitar rattling through an artfully mixed set of older and newer numbers, which ran the gamut of emotions from joy to grief and everywhere in between. Andrew has a mellow and amazingly mature voice, which he uses to great effect; he also writes properly decent songs – honest expressions of his life experience.

‘4.5%’ was a highlight – it’s an intensely personal and moving song about his father and alcoholism, and we all listened intently. From there, he moved to a song which was a raw celebration of the sheer joys and camaraderie of football. The skill with which he was able to perform both these types of songs with equal passion and connection to his audience was testament to his surprising skill.

The fact he started his set 2 minutes early also illustrated the feeling of readiness and energy which Andrew exuded; he was likeable straight away, he took time to chat to the crowd, and directly to some of those near the front; and it’s fair to say that Andrew won us all over, well and truly, during the course of his short set. A huge roar of appreciation rose at the end of his time on stage. 

There was a noticeable buzz of excitement during the changeover, and this built as the lights dropped. The Slow Readers Club command a faithful group of long-term fans, and plenty of them were evident at the front of the downstairs crowd as well as leaning over the venue’s balconies, but there are new converts being added all the time: I could sense that many in the audience were there having being introduced to the band by way of their latest album, Knowledge Freedom Power (which I reviewed for the Songbird recently).

Beckoned out by chants of “Readers! Readers!” drummer David Whitworth was the first to emerge onto the darkened stage, followed by bassist James Ryan, guitarist Kurtis Starkie and finally Aaron Starkie, wearing a long leather coat over a ‘Knowledge Freedom Power’ t-shirt. The band launched straight into Modernise (the first track from the new album), laying down a grating, bass-fuelled statement of intent with Aaron looking intense and sounding even more so; and then it was to Fool For Your Philosophy (from 2015). It was once they reached All I Hear, a part of their March 2020 album The Joy of the Return, that they seemed to have settled in. Here, Aaron used his falsetto range to good effect – his voice sounded mature and well-developed, with no hint of tiredness despite this being the band’s ninth date of their current tour.

The coat was off as we heard the slightly mellower sounds of The Greatest Escape, and I realised just how hard Kurtis was working, his guitar seeming to be everywhere while he offered vocal harmonies, too. The Wait sounded fabulous and was one of the several high points in the arc of the set: irresistibly driven at pace by James’ bass and constantly built up with chilly guitar riffs and rolling drums.

After a diversion to a newer track (How Could You Know), with Aaron on the keyboard somehow introducing more intimacy to the proceedings, it was back to familiar territory and Plant the Seed – one of the band’s strongest songs in my view – which sets off the icey, soaring, high pitched vocal “Fade to white” against strident, stentorian chants and over the kind of 80s synth riff which I defy anyone to dislike. When Aaron held out the mic, oh boy did the crowd come through, perhaps more strongly than expected judging by the grins on the band members’ faces. This felt like a turning point, a moment shared which eased the band into really enjoying the rest of the set.

Everything I Own is a song written in lockdown; that was another moment of history we all shared, and it felt cathartic to be in this together, too. We learned then that it was Dougal the soundman’s birthday tonight – this led to a spontaneous round of Happy Birthday before we heard Forever In Your Debt (I know, so wholesome) with its delicious ingredient, muted guitar chords.

Jericho was riffy and jumpy, and Afterlife was superbly euphoric – a song which, perhaps more so than on the new album, really opened up and filled the live space. “A f***ing tune” according to one audience member, a sentiment endorsed by Aaron. And then You Opened Up My Heart, hands grasped, audience members clearly taken to another place, and just so so glad to be there.

2011’s Block Out the Sun was sparse but very powerful, resounding with a clear pulse and metered vocals. It’s the kind of song where the gaps mean almost as much as the words and chords. This was also a song which allowed a gathering of breath, the set reaching towards a climax. The band were unmistakably on fire in Lay Your Troubles on Me, and that fire spread inexorably through the crowd, so that pretty much the whole downstairs area was jumping through the superbly bouncy da-da-da refrain of On The TV. We all had the chance to sing an acapella, extended version of that refrain, the band members joining back in one by one to play us out.

Feet on Fire, “written when we were angry young men”, provided a parting shot from the band, proving they had plenty still to say to their newest generation of fans, and the energy and attitude to deliver that message. But we all knew there was plenty still to come after the four walked briefly off stage having already performed for well over an hour.

And in fact there were three more songs to be delivered to a crowd which was absolutely in the palms of the band’s hands now: I Saw a Ghost, rich and densely dark, with another singalong opportunity; Knowledge Freedom Power, the new album’s title track with what I previously described as its “almost shouted and anachronistically joy-filled refrain”, perfectly fitted to a capacity crowd; and last of all Lunatic, from 2018 but sounding absolutely right in 2023. 

“Once again I’m drawn toward oblivion, the end already written though we’ve just begun” could in other hands sound a negative note, but The Slow Readers Club were on the top of the world tonight and had taken us there with them. I was left feeling enriched and seeing the beauty in everyone and everything around me. It was a feeling of hope through shared joy and pain.

Full set list


Fool For Your Philosophy

All I Hear

The Greatest Escape

The Wait

How Could You Know

Plant the Seed

Everything I Own

Forever in Your Debt



You Opened Up My Heart

Block Out the Sun

Lay Your Troubles on Me

On The TV

Feet on Fire


I Saw a Ghost

Knowledge Freedom Power


The Slow Readers Club are continuing their UK and Europe tour, with many dates sold out:



17th – Manchester, Albert Hall 

18th – Cardiff, International Arena (special guests to Pixies) 

23rd – Berlin, Hole 44 

24th – Hamburg, Übel & Gefährlich 

25th – Antwerp, Trix Club 

30th – Paris, Supersonic 

31st – Rotterdam, Rotown 


1st – Amsterdam, Paradiso Tolhuistuin 

14th – Belfast, Limelight 2 

15th – Dublin, Academy 

29th – Porto, M.Ou.Co 








Apple Music

Words by Phil Taylor

All Photographs by Dennis Halifhide-Smith