Fontaines DC + The Altered Hours.

Leeds Academy. 23.10.21.

Review and Photos by Steve White

This seems to be one of those gigs that’s been a long time coming. One that was announced way back at some point during the pandemic and one of those where tickets were purchased and then put away whilst fingers were crossed that it would actually happen. Fontaines DC concerts are always eventful, always dripping with anticipation and atmosphere. Perhaps because of the wait tonight seems to have an extra edge to it.

But first The Altered Hours and proof once again, if you ever need it, that you should always make a real effort to see the support band rather than sit in the local pub drinking with your mates. Thankfully by the time the Irish five-piece walk on stage the Academy has a decent crowd in to welcome them. The Altered Hours have a new album out but perhaps it’s too new for a big promotion tonight. Released only a day ago Convertible is full of tense, rumbling bass, ominously brooding background sounds topped with gently jangling guitars and vocals that create a perfect modern day shoegaze atmosphere. However tonight sees them play just one track from Convertible – the wonderful All Amnesia is everything a fan of bands such as Lush or Loop will love. The rest of their set covers every period of their existence. Opening with Cement from 2011’s Downstream ep, The Altered Hours mix deep, dark sounds, minimal guitar soundscapes and anguished vocals into songs such as Open Wide and Hey No Way that brim with tension as they build from slower, more morose beginnings into cacophonous finales. Vocal duties are split between the lighter, more anguished sounds of Elaine Howley and the darker, more menacing voice of Cathal MacGabhann. As yet unreleased song Colour Scheme really ups the pace with slicing guitars in a frantic post-punk psychedelic rush before the hypnotic and ever building background drone of Smoke Your Eyes and Everyone Is Inside close a set that leaves you wishing you’d been with them for all of the last decade. 

Fontaines DC are due on stage at 8:30 and by now the Academy is packed. There’s an atmosphere of expectation that something special is about to happen, something that many here tonight won’t have experienced for the last 20 months. It’s only two years since they played up the road at the 400 capacity Brudenell. Tonight’s 2300 tickets sold out months ago and when the band finally walk on stage they’re greeted like long absent friends. Flowers are thrown into the masses and then they open with A Hero’s Death, the title song from album number two that people have been desperate to hear live since it’s release at the height of Covid lockdowns. Finally the crowd, and the band, can release that pent up energy. The droning bass, steadily beating drums and Grian Chatten’s repetitive chant of “Life Ain’t Always Empty” sees the floor become a mass of swaying, bouncing bodies. A Hero’s Death gives way to A Lucid Dream and no let up in the furious intensity. Whilst the rest of the band rarely leave their allocated stage position Chatten needs every inch as he pounds around staring at nothing in particular then focusing intensely forward as he grabs the mic stand to chant his vocals with one arm tucked in behind his back or stretched out behind him. One positive of such a hiatus between the release of A Hero’s Death and this tour is the time it’s allowed fans to grow into it’s songs. Every song is reacted to like it’s an old classic – every word is known and is sung back at the band. Fontaines DC have a well deserved reputation for delivering hard hitting, sublimely noisy live shows and tonight is no exception. Whilst the stages are bigger and the light show far more dramatic and theatrical, backed as they are by rising columns of white light as well as the customary moments of all engulfing reds and blues, the band haven’t let it go to their heads. They still play with the energy and intensity of a group hungry for recognition and success and the audience loves them for it. Living In America is intense and, coming as it does well into the set, sees a seething mosh pit that’s now taking over the floor.

Debut album Dogrel features more the A Hero’s Death. The irresistible Sha Sha Sha and  Chequeless Reckless, mean that the intensity and charged atmosphere really don’t let up. The Lotts provides a brief moment mid-set for quiet contemplations as well as to catch some breath but Too Real, Hurricane Laughter and of course Boys In The Better Land mean that as Fontaines DC’s main set draws to a close there’s crowd surfing, a sea of movement and arms punching the air right to the back of the venue. This is people having a seriously great time.

Throughout it all neither Chatten nor anyone else has uttered a word between songs. There’s no story telling, no introduction to songs, no comments about anything. No seconds wasted. Just one great song after another. 

They leave the stage for just a minute or two before an inspiringly glorious Roy’s Tune sees 2000 people transfixed, mesmerised as they sing the words to each other or simply to themselves. Then, as “You know that violence that you get around here. That kind of ready-steady violence. That violent ‘How Do You Do’” fills the air with it’s infectious call to gather as one heaving mass, one last stand, to squeeze out that last drop of sweat. And they do as the whole place erupts. Liberty Belle is a dark song. Violence and divisions dominate it’s lyrics but tonight it’s turned into a joyous celebration that Fontaines DC are back playing live.  A fantastic end to an excellent gig.


Philip Goddard

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