Shame at The Waterfront 26/11/18 - Review
Stomping along the boundary between accessibility and abrasiveness, it’s safe to say all the bands on this bill represent a ‘new breed’ of young, politically disaffected post-post-punk bands slowly dripping into the foreground of UK guitar music, earning the respect of young and old audiences alike. Not totally sure about any of the bands on this bill, I went along to find out if this post-brexit punk party has any sign of slowing down.
Opening things were Dublin quintet, Fontaine’s D.C., a band which served as a solid reminder that young artists can still sound a bit like The Fall without sacrificing melody or hooks. In light of this realisation, Fontaine’s D.C. impressed me most. My gut’s expectation of shouty atonal post-punk was completely unjust. First on within 15 minutes of doors and with a difficult slot to fill, they maintained a hard-edged charisma that greeted a frustratingly detached audience like a dog being let off the lead. At points: scratchy and primal, others: linear and motorik; they maintained an explosiveness and dexterity in their music that sat comfortably beneath lead vocalist, Grian Chatten’s icy Irish delivery - which could be every bit Elias Rønnenfelt as it could Shane MacGowan. Literary tales of unreal cities and alienation that ranged from cascading spoken-word to pop-punk at its most primitive, they maintained catchiness and wit in equal measure throughout. They’re clearly still maturing as a live band but it’s a tough crowd on a tough night so no doubt they’d be deadly on their own soil. With an infectious vocal melody that begs to be met by flailing limbs and soaring pints, it’s hard to imagine that debut single, ‘Liberty Belle’ would’ve slipped under John Peel’s radar had he had the pleasure of watching Chatten stagger the Waterfront stage. Top stuff.
A band I’ve had an eye on since they were formerly known as Fish, Shame partners in rhyme Sorry were next on and despite being warmly received, didn’t cut it for me. A moody grunge sensibility that occasionally flirted with trip-hoppy samples and grey atmospherics; their set was a clear change of pace to the other bands on the bill – more akin to The XX than Generation X. Never a bad thing. However, they lacked the subtly or confidence to seem like an effective contrast. Whilst ‘Starstruck’ wouldn’t be out of place as a Cardigans single and their drummer did make some terrific faces, the charisma of Shame or Fontaine’s D.C. just wasn’t quite there as they meandered through their set. Sorry.
Darkness followed by a piercingly bright wash of white light was the only introduction Shame needed. The battlecry of opener, ‘Dust on Trial’ was barely seconds in before the crowd centre-stage detonated into a frenzy of excitement – a fine achievement for a Monday night that started out so cold and wet. Reverb laden guitars clung tight to the pummelling tight rhythm section that created a breezeblock wall-of-sound which remained totally airtight throughout, even when lead guitarist, Sean Coyle Smith, appeared to break a string. As lead singer Charlie Steen was pleased to tell the audience, the band have been playing together since they were 16/17 and despite ‘putting on a bit of weight, a bit like going to university’ (Steen, 2018), it’s clear they’re getting to the peak of their powers. Most pleasing to watch was bass player Josh Finnerty who ran a solid half-marathon as he charged and jumped round the stage like a fresh-faced Mick Jones impersonating Angus Young. Clearly unfazed by their transformation from Fat White Family’s younger brother to one of the most popular bands in the country, it’s hard to ignore the unanimous response to every track that made it feel like wall-to-wall hits. The slight self-consciousness evident in Sorry, and even Fontaine’s D.C.’s prior sets was replaced by an unflinching post-debut release confidence that fizzed from start to finish. Even new track ‘Human for a Minute’ which saw a slightly more sensitive new-wave side to the band was greeted by swelling mosh pits. At times, the band’s driving Preoccupations-esque rhythms began to wade into indier waters than I would care to venture but it never came at the expense of attitude which was constant throughout. ‘One Rizla’ garnered one of the biggest singalongs I’ve seen at a gig this year but still sounds a bit like Sky Sports goal montage music to me. Although saying that, if Shame are the band they appear to be, then they probably won’t give a fuck what I think. And good on them.