LIVE REVIEW: Fontaines D.C, O2 Academy, Newcastle, Friday 10 January 2020
Post-punk band Fontaines D.C. released my favourite album of last year in Dogrel, their debut long-player.
I wasn’t alone in rating it so highly – it was also named album of the year by Rough Trade and BBC 6 Music.
So it was with a great sense of anticipation that I joined the sold-out crowd at the O2 Academy in Newcastle for their first gig of 2020.
The Dublin five-piece only self-released their first single in May 2017, but seemed to arrive fully-formed, with an unshakeable idea of who they were and what they wanted to sound like.
Taking inspiration from poetry as well as post-punk legends like Joy Division and Wire, their album was superb in every way. (Read our review here)
They know how to play a crowd too. Their intro music is the classic Pogues song Sally MacLennane, and from the photopit I could see the band waiting in the wings, bouncing to the tune as fervently as the crowd, who greet them like returning heroes as they take the stage.
When they launch into opener Hurricane Laughter the place explodes, with pints flung and a swaying moshpit immediately forming in front on the stage.
Singer Grian Chatten, who sings in a rich Dublin brogue, has a touch of the Liam Gallaghers about him, and more than a little in common with Kasabian singer Tom Meighan, restlessly wandering the stage when he’s not at the mic.
It’s hard to put your finger on just what it is that makes Fontaines D.C. stand out from the pack. They’re certainly not a showy band; they just quietly get on with creating an intense wall of sound – the sort of which Phil Spector would approve.
The rhythm section of Conor Deegan III on bass and Tom Coll on drums lay down a thunderous backbeat, which gives them a huge sound, while Carlos O’Connell and Conor Curley add layers of dense guitar.
Some of their best songs are wheeled out early on. When Chequeless Reckless is followed by Sha Sha Sha, you fear they might have shown their hand too soon. We need not have worried. Even though they have just one album and a few B-sides to their name, there’s not a weak song among them.
They are already masters at building up tension in their songs, and you’re waiting for the song to explode, but it doesn’t, because that would be a bit too obvious. They do this very well in the new song A Hero’s Death. If this is a sample of their new material, I can’t wait to hear more.
The highpoints of the set are many: Television Screens, which started out as a poem but was turned into a song, is punctuated by Chatten’s deadpan vocals and some piercing guitar riffs.
Too Real sees guitarists O’ Connell and Curley down on their haunches, twiddling their effects pedals in unison and creating a squalling sound so sublime it’s hard to believe it was of this earth.
The closing run of songs reminds us – if any reminder were needed – what a special band Fontaines D.C. are. The singles Liberty Belle and Boys In The Better Land lift the moshpit to new levels of frenzy, before the epic Dublin City Sky brings things down a notch, and shows they’re not one-trick ponies. It will sound fantastic when thousands sing it back to them at festivals.
They close with Big, another of their big tunes, and then they’re gone. No encore, just a feeling of euphoria and the sense you’ve just witnessed something very special indeed.