IRISH HEROES FONTAINES D.C. PUT ON A STELLAR SHOW IN BIRMINGHAM
Updated: Oct 18, 2021
Reviewed by Richard Nevin
It’s a minor gripe. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that in the grand scheme of things it’s not worthy of being called a gripe at all. But when you’re a miserly old goat like me you’ll find anything to grumble about.
I had so many gigs cancelled due to the pandemic I had to list all the rearrangements in my phone calendar, something I’ve never done before because I could always remember them. But when so many are rescheduled in such a short space of time needs must to ensure I didn’t miss out and on a Monday afternoon I was trotting around the pubs in town before my second gig in four days and one of four in a three week period.
Dublin’s Fontaines D.C. certainly made a stir a couple of years ago with the thrilling “Boys In The Better Land” single release and equally impressive debut album Dogrel, so much so they practically became the house band on BBC6Music. Last year’s follow up A Hero’s Death only increased the anticipation ahead of their appearance at the Academy but a combination of the pandemic and a dodgy phone signal nearly caused an anti-climax for those of us struggling with technology. In these all too different times Covid passports have become essential for big gatherings and entry via them is actually quite smooth, if you’ve remembered to obtain them that is.
Once that issue was surmounted the inability to download our tickets was the next hurdle, one that could only be cleared by me having to practically walk back to the Pagoda Island to find a signal and complete the process. Once inside and after a couple a failed incursions onto the balcony for which I mistakenly thought we had tickets, we settled into a half decent vantage point as the support band took their bows and left the stage.
Fontaines D.C. are best described as “post punk” which, when people ask me what the term means I rather quickly change the subject. I find it difficult to quantify but they attracted an eclectic bunch of people, mercifully not all young; a mixture of indie kids, sesh heads, Birmingham Irish and earnest musos. The mosh pit was back in full effect with the legs of the most dedicated sharing the air with pints of beer, a practice which continues to mystify, particularly given the cost and time it took to get a drink.
The band kicked things off with the title track from their second album, its optimism and smart lyrics setting the scene for the rest of the set, mixing the incendiary and aggressive with the hypnotic and considered from both album releases. There’s the implied threat of “Hurricane Laughter”, the plaintive “I Don’t Belong” and the simple impact of “Big”.
Frontman Grian Chatten more than made up for the relative inactivity of his colleagues by cutting a frantic figure, spinning around at times as if the mic stand was a chrome maypole. He can be an intense and dark character and this just adds to the drama of the music, drama that came thick and fast as the band galloped through the show to the climax in the form of “Boys….” Which is where I came in as far as this band is concerned - as did many others judging by the reaction.
Roy’s Tune followed by the Dublin-inspired Liberty Belle rounded things off in terms of an encore and that was that. It was certainly worth the wait, a wait which hopefully won’t be as long next time. Despite the interruption of a pandemic, Fontaines D.C. continue to burn bright; how long for is unknown but for now the glow on a Monday night was something to behold.
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