22nd July 2021
Fontaines DC have come a long way since I last saw them in February. Following a Mercury-nominated album in ‘Dogrel’ and a gruelling touring schedule, the lads make their Liverpool debut at the O2 Academy. It’s no surprise that the gig is one of the most anticipated in Liverpool this year, as you can tell the variety of people their music resonates with just looking at the demographic of the crowd. From Radio 6 dads, to enigmatic teens, the Irish quintet have attained that kind of unity in fans that pink giants such as IDLES have. They’ve even got their own FB fan community in the same vein as IDLES’ AF gang.
The Irish scene has been a breeding ground for the post-punk revival in the past few years, with Fontaines D.C., Girl Band and The Murder Capital being at the forefront of this. This tour is an aptitude test in proving their worth as the most culturally important band of the year. Ripping into ‘Hurricane Laughter’ the guitar riff ricochets through the venue, like a warning sign. It’s the perfect orifice of what’s to come. Grian Chatten’s deadpan vocal style delivers gravelly wit, and carries with it a sincerity that seems to resonate with many. “There is no connection available” proclaims Chatten – though ironically the feeling of incongruence with modern society seems to have united so many in the room tonight.
Thumping the microphone like a call to arms, you’ve got to hope they have a few more of these in their tour inventory. Chatten manoeuvres around the stage like a delirious, ungainly acrobat. He has the appearance of a young Liam Gallagher, yet has the introverted maverick spirit of Ian Curtis. You can see it in his eyes that he’s exhausted, but with a gruelling schedule like theirs it’s more than expected. ‘Chequeless Reckless’ reads like a manifesto against posers and the ignorant. Razor-sharp lines such as “An idiot is someone who lets their education do all the talking” roll off of Chatten’s tongue.
During ‘Sha Sha Sha’, guitarist Carlos O’Connell, manoeuvres onto the stage framework, but the crowd seems too focused on the frontman to notice at first. He has that sort of magnetic quality. ‘Too Real’ builds up into a volcanic eruption of swirling noise, and with that an eruption of limbs within the crowd. Chatten’s ‘Ahhhh’ acts as a catalyst to this, sending the crowd into rapture. One of the distinctive things about gigs such as this is it’s an immersive experience, and brings an hour of forgetting everything from 9-5 jobs, to the UK’s dire political state.
The band tease a few unreleased singles across the night such as ‘Televised Mind’, giving a taster of what’s to come – it’s a big feat to follow up what is probably the most exciting guitar music debut this year, but they might just do it. Unsurprisingly, a few fans already sing back every word, emphasising the holding power this band has had so far. Although the group have been criticised by some on Twitter for allegedly appropriating Dublin Working Class issues, the lyrics take on a perspective in an almost Joyceian way. ‘Liberty Belle’ is a perfect example of this, a documentarian of the ruthless “nice man if you knew him well”. ‘Boys in the Better Land’ is probably one of my highlights of the night, an anthem of progressive hope which gets the crowd reckless.
‘Roys Tune’ and ‘Dublin City Sky’ are delivered towards the end of the set and opens a more vulnerable side to the band, focusing on unhealthy relationships in the context of an increasingly toxic social environment. You can see Grian engaging in a sort of personal reflection with his hand for some reason. He doesn’t take his eyes off it for the whole song. The band round off the set with ‘Big’, just under two minutes of high-octane, unadulterated post-punk. It’s probably their most popular song to date, and probably one which is most reflective of their last year – “My childhood was small, but I’m gonna be big”.
No encore, no irrelevant small talk apart from the occasional thanks. This is straight to the point, no-nonsense post-punk.
Dogrel is available to order here.