Fontaines D.C. prove that 'life ain't always empty' with a Post-Punk showdown in Sheffield!
After a three year wait, following a cancelled festival slot and COVID pushing back their tour for months I finally managed to see Dublin's finest live. A last minute scrabble to find vaccine certificates and covid passes proceeded what would become a very special night of music.
Of course the five lads strolled onto the stage fashionably late in their unshamefully rock&roll manor and without speaking a word they burst into the punchy swing of their latest album's title track 'A Hero's Death'. Every time I hear this song I am in awe of how they make a grizzly Rock song so bright and provide it such depth with the lyrics. The Jazz infused "ba, ba, ba, ba, ba" that comes from the backing vocals is a peculiar addition but works perfectly to act as a counter balance to the visceral delivery of Grian Chatten. The list of important life lessons that are wrapped up in the lyrics are a sort of Post-Punk reimagining of Rudyard Kipling's 'If'. When you are standing in a room full fans all chanting back lines such as "When you speak, speak sincere, and believe me friend everyone will hear" the words really hit you. They aren't just some angsty filler to get crowds moving, they are inspirational. As Grian lent further and futher into the mic on each verse you couldn't help but take head of his wise words. One of the lasting lines "If we give ourselves to every breath then we're all in the running for a hero's death" brought the whole audience into chorus. It left a lasting impact on the room as both the words and the unrelenting instrumentals delivered a fierce yet poignant opening and sparked an early realisation that this band are leading their genre forward with generational significance.
The opener set the mood and was then followed by a blistering stream of high energy tracks that got the amphitheater design of the venue shaking. From the dizzying instrumental whirlwind of 'A Lucid Dream' to the pounding swagger of 'Sha Sha Sha', to the rolling spoken word anthem of 'Chequeless Reckless', this first third of the set was electrifying. Each track was relentless and instrumentally so mature and tight. 'Chequeless Reckless' drew a response from the crowd that I had not seen in a long time. We all dream of that moment when a few excited fans open up a moshpit that then spreads across the room. Yet, this was something more than that. No moshpit borders, no central frenzy with the outskirts looking in tentatively. The whole crowd just melted together in one bustling ball of energy and began to mimick the on stage antics of their idolised frontman Grian Chatten who flailed around with is tracksuit sleeves waving wildly. Everyone had their hands in the air, hips shaking and were completely lost in the music.
They then continued to drift through their impressively consistent catalogue and ended the main set with the full-on back-to-back fury of 'Televised Mind' and 'Boys in the Better Land' as Grian batted his 2nd tambourine of the night (after the first had shattered to pieces) against his chest. After a brief intermission the band reemerged in slightly more casual dress to perform a crowd pleasing encore. 'Roy's Tune' provided the most emotive and heartfelt moment of the night. The smooth guitar tones swayed and heads began to join in as Grian's thick Irish twang sang a bleak sound. This offered a slight calm before the storm of their final track. They crashed out with the short raucous energy of 'Liberty Belle'. The words "I love that violence that you get around here" were spat out by everyone present as a non-stop moshpit moved from side to side around the venue. It was a short and sweet ending to a night that was anything but. The tracks were all performed in an expansive style, with the opening to tracks like 'Too Real' drawn out to bring a palpable tension. While many of the songs are incredibly layered and instrumentally complex, they made it look so easy! It turns out that being Europe's most complete Rock act just comes naturally to the five Dublin boys. A complete joy and a must-see live!