Saffron Sprackling, of ‘90s Britpop band REPUBLICA, is still to this day recognised as one of the most enigmatic and iconic lead singers to ever hit a stage. She’s back with her band and on tour, supporting Liverpool’s SPACE.
Manchester has always had a soft spot for the London band and their high-energy no-nuisance ways. We Mancunians love a bit of attitude mixed with a strong dose of humility and fun, and Republica deliver all three. Here at the city’s Academy 3, there’s already a sizzling buzz in the room as people of all generations pile into the venue, eager to relive the ‘90s with Saffron et al, or to experience the band for the first time. Republica have retained their stature in this ever-transitioning industry, and although they may no longer be hype band of the decade, they ooze class and show no signs of giving in to the mass-produced pap of the current industrial mood. They’re here to do a job and show the kids how it’s done – and they’ve brought some storming new tunes with them, to boot.
Breaking her trademark Cheshire Cat grin to get down to business, Saffron channels the diva within, stares out the crowd with her piercing glare and moves straight into Bloke. Several people are already dancing like maniacs, and we’re transported back to the rave days within seconds.
Rush Hour With Love is followed by the storming Out Of The Darkness, “Get up, alarm clock, lip gloss, what a shock / Get dressed, front door, more stress – what for? / Trapped in your world / You know you’re trapped in your world” – it’s a stark reminder that Republica have always spoken to the ordinary man, with social commentary peppering all of their brilliant dance tracks, harking back to an era when commercial-friendly music in the UK still had a soul.
“We have happy memories of Manchester… the Hacienda days!” reminisces Saffron, as the crowds roar with pleasure.
Drop Dead Gorgeous is the crowd-puller it always has been, with fans thrilled as Saffron bites at them: “End of, stop sulking / Get out, you’re walkin’ / Too bad, I’ve spoken / But when I look at you you’re forgiven.”
New track Hallelujah is a lot of fun and now arguably one of their best ever songs, immediately resonating with the fans, getting them all moving. Christiana Obey is the equally fierce title-track of their 2013 EP and a valuable commentary on the pressures of mass media on women.
As we reach the inevitable pinnacle of ‘90s smashout track Ready To Go, I get goosebumps watching the entire room pogoing as Saffron blares out, “C’mon, Manchester!” and these guys may as well be on a massive festival stage. This band gives 100% wherever they are, and that shows just how committed they are. Arms are in the air and the crowd sings along, while Saffron grabs the hands of die-hard fans at the stage, thanking them in person for their loyalty and support.
Saffron doesn’t intend to let us off the hook and again claims her crown as boss of the stage, ending with Holly, another classic from the Republica back catalogue: “Holly doesn’t give a damn… Who cares, anyway? Who really cares, anyway?” Well, exactly…
The next day, we see them again in Liverpool – bigger stage, bigger room, but nothing will ever match the searing energy I felt in Manchester the night before. The foundations of the music industry were shaken during that set – remember, remember… there was once an era which changed the face of music: doors were being kicked down, bands were taking risks, female leads were not taking No for an answer. Will we ever see bands in the same way ever again? Has the industry been too whitewashed? Is it all over? Or will powerful front singers like Saffron always remain an essential example of what can be achieved on stage? I hope so… As for Republica, if they ever wanted to put their stamp back onto Manchester, they certainly etched themselves firmly in the minds of every person at the venue that night.