Shame/HMLTD/Fontaines DC - O2 Academy, Leicester 17/11/2018

Shame/HMLTD/Fontaines DC – O2 Academy, Leicester 17/11/2018

You know the form, right? Live reviews write themselves half the time, a few lazy, mumbled words about the support act who you only half listened to as you pushed your way to the bar for a warm Speckled Hen before lamenting the main act for being too loud/too quiet/too aloof or too pissed. Easy. So let’s mix things up.

The meat in tonight’s sandwich is HMLTD, an act for whom a decent sound system is a must, you can’t strut like a panther on heat unless you’re backed by a thundering dollop of bass and boy, does Henry Spychalski milk every lost drop. Recently shorn, he is a terrifying prospect as he bounds onto the bowel-wobbling ‘Proxy Love’ and proceeds to strip item item by item as the set becomes a soundtrack for debauchery and pantomime. By the time they hit ‘Death Drive’ I’m wondering if I’ve accidentally stumbled into a swingers party. HMLTD are awash with big 80s keyboards and 70s flamboyance and in ‘Flex‘ they may have taken sexual alchemy to a whole new level. They end with ‘Stained’ and nonchalantly saunter off into the night. Job done. More innocent souls corrupted. They also love a hat.

On any normal evening this would be the pinnacle and yet we still have Shame to maintain the momentum. However, if HMLTD are poster boys for elite pampas grass shenanigans then Charlie Steen and the lads are a world away from sexual ambiguity. As the opening chords to ‘Dust On Trial’ register, Steen pumps the air, with a freshly dyed blonde barnet and pink shirt, his snarl conjuring up images of Lydon some 40 years earlier. An hour later and the ferocity hasn’t let up for a moment, although the shirt is dispensed with leaving us with yet another bare torso to admire…what is it with front men these days?

If Songs Of Praise is one of the albums of the year for its articulate understatements, then live Shame are a different beast altogether. Loud, shouty and wholly compelling as a visual spectacle they allow Steen licence to strip the paint off the walls as they thunder through ‘One Rizla’, ‘The Lick’ and the magnificently handled ‘Angie‘ which appears to last a lifetime. If there is one criticism of the band, then it’s the lack of any discernible subtlety in their performance. Every track is delivered with gusto and turned up to eleventy-stupid which masks much of their intelligence, of which they have plenty. However, this minor personal gripe aside, Shame are exhilarating and given they are operating in the rarefied atmosphere of pre-Brexit paranoia, they are also a welcome antidote. They hurriedly take to the stage for an encore and thrash their way through 90 seconds of ‘Donk‘ before departing with the minimum of fuss. Brilliant.

And yet…and yet. The evening started with me stuck in a taxi desperately urging my driver to dispense with the rules of the road and hurtle through the early evening traffic in order to catch Fontaines DC. He may well have a few points on his licence as a result but I have the memory of seeing one of the most talked about acts of 2018 bang out a near-perfect 30 minutes of unsettling post-punk, If ‘Liberty Belle’ is too close to The Vaccines for your liking then trust me, the remainder of their canon is a far cry from such pop frivolity. Frontman Grian Chatten has physical Tourette’s, by which I mean his body language looks as if its permanently ordering you to fuck off whilst his Mark E Smith delivery is hauntingly reminiscent of the great man.

Their set is curtailed with the wicked ‘Hurricane Laughter’ and I realise I’ve still got a full pint in my hand, that’s how good Fontaines DC are…any band which can separate me from my beer is destined for greatness. As well as having a bunch of authentic, thought-provoking songs, they have a vocalists who is mesmeric simply by doing nothing. That’s a rare talent but then Fontaines DC are going to be huge. Or perhaps not. Who cares…I’ve seen them.

As our social and political climate grows increasingly dark, there are flickers of defiance brewing within our creative industries. It was only a matter of time, I guess but on an otherwise dull Saturday evening in Leicester I witnessed a scorching multi-coloured rainbow of resistance Vive la Revolution but please, keep your shirts on.


God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.