Fontaines D.C. at The Globe, Stockton 15/11/22

My first visit to this splendidly refurbished venue. Inside it’s smart, bright and retained the looks of a traditional theatre albeit with some 21st Century features. And it’s not too big meaning that bands don’t have to struggle to get a real atmosphere to develop like they might do in the cavernous surroundings of arenas.

Up first are Wunderhorse, the latter day musical project of Jacob Slater – one time frontman of the heavier, more raucous Dead Pretties. For those of us of a certain age who grew up with the first wave of punk and who now have subscriptions to Disney+ Slater, also an actor, played the part of Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook in the excellent series ‘Pistol’.

Wunderhorse deliver a set of poignant but hard-edged songs tackling relationships, the stormy days of youth, struggles and confusion, hope and optimism. There’s real feeling behind every song. Mellow moments interweave with some slashing guitar work and pounding drums. ‘Teal’ is a real standout, bouncing along with a real pop tinged beat in direct contrast to the sheer passion written all over Slater’s face as he belts out the chorus. You can almost see the adrenalin coursing through his features.

Thankfully there’s a decent crowd in to see them, a sizeable number of whom are clearly real, rather than simply inquisitive, fans. Tonight’s short, but powerful, set from Wunderhorse, can only have helped swell the numbers making the effort to see them as the tour continues. Debut album, ‘Cub’, released just 5 weeks ago, is well worth checking out.

The fanbase of Fontaines D.C. seems to be expanding at an incredible rate. Little wonder most dates on this tour sold out quickly. Thankfully most venues they’re playing are still of a size where it doesn’t take too long to build a real atmosphere and a real sense of excited expectation before they walk on stage. But it’s not going to be too long before they’re only playing venues holding two, three, four times as many. They stroll on just after 9pm, by which time the place is rammed. Fontaines album number three, ‘Skinty Fia’ has been a musical highlight of 2022 for many. Still full of hard-hitting lyrics it’s musical underscore is far more melodic, reflective and harmonious than albums one and two. Unmistakeably Fontaines D.C. but a bold step away from the early raw, garage, post-punk sounds that dominated debut ‘Dogrel’. Tonight sees a perfect balance between their three albums. Opening with ‘A Heroes Death’, the introductory drums providing the perfect excuse for those present to start an early mosh-pit. Grian Chatten, as always, pumped full of an energy that sees him barely able to stand still for even a second, struts round the stage in a repetitive circle, pausing only to stare out into the openness. The droning bass, steady beat and chant of “Life Ain’t Always Empty” are the perfect opener. ‘Sha Sha Sha’ follows before ‘Hurricane Laughter’ erupts with it’s rumbling bass and stabbing guitar riff. The intensity of ‘Hurricane Laughter’ reflected in the stock still stance of the rest of the band that allows Chatten to continue his relentless pacing between lyrics. With one arm either tucked firmly behind his back or stretched out behind him he’s completely emersed in the moment, as are those at the front of the crowd which, three songs in, is now a mass of movement. It’s not until song number four that the new album makes an appearance. Title track ‘Skinty Fia’ with it’s stark, rolling, rhythms engulfs the venue. ‘I Don’t Belong’ together with the soaring ‘Big Shot’ slow things further almost willing you into moments of personal reflection. ‘Televised Mind’ ushers back the spikey guitars and one line vocal repeats from 2020’ album ‘A Heroes Death’.

It’s at this point you truly appreciate how well-balanced tonight’s setlist is. Whilst ‘Nabokov’, ‘How Cold Love Is’, ‘Roman Holiday’ and ‘Jackie Down The Line’, all from Skinty Fia, are packed full of anger, tenderness and countless other emotions, the sounds underpinning them are elegant, melancholic, subtle. They’re sounds for contemplation, not for leaping around to. ‘Roy’s Tune’ is, as always, just sublime. It really does stop you in your tracks and sees people simply standing lost in their own worlds as they sing the lyrics back.

Fontaines D.C. blend these flawlessly with the raw, hard hitting, post-punk of ‘Chequeless Reckless’, ‘Big’ and ‘Boys In The Better Land’. After all, you can’t stand mulling over the highs and lows of everyday life for a whole gig. Energy needs to be released and it’s the songs from Dogrel and A Heroes Death that bring the real intensity and atmosphere of a crowd having a great time, a surge of bouncing movement amongst those standing, with arms in the air. They finish with ‘I Love You’, Chatten’s expression of love for his country and hometown of Dublin rapidly becoming bitter anger as he denounces the church scandals, rising suicide rates and corruption that’s leading to so many young people wanting to leave. Lyrically it’s probably the most powerful song they could end on.

Fontaines D.C. don’t waste time. There’s no chatter between songs, no story-telling, no band introductions. It’s all about the music and the lyrics. This is a band continuing to grow and expand their horizons and a band that continue to deliver fantastic live shows.

Words and Photos by Steve White 



Philip Goddard

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