It’s been a long, tiresome few years as the changing winds of the music industry has repeatedly pushed people to bemoan the death of guitar music. However, anyone who follows that lazy narrative needs to get to a Fontaines D.C. show to see that it, of course, the genre remains vehemently alive and kicking, albeit slightly wounded.
The Irish band are currently on a huge tour of the UK, which wraps up at London’s historic Alexandra Palace on October 27th, and it’s not difficult to understand why tickets for their shows are harder to get than a full tank of diesel. Before attending one of their performances during their residency at Manchester Academy at the end of last week, I was already a colossal fan. Still, somehow, that intoxicating love has managed to swell even further following their celestial display.
It was only in 2019 when their debut album, Dogrel, was released to mass critical acclaim, and among a sea of post-punk bands, it was evident that Fontaines D.C. had that mercurial touch, one which made them stand out from the rest.
Rather than wait around to release the follow-up Far Out’s ‘Album of the Year’ for 2020, A Hero’s Death arrived last year and confirmed what their admirers already suspected about their generational brilliance. Hearing the songs in a sweaty venue is where they deserve to be absorbed, and the gig was an absolute riot.
Below are five stand-out moments from a set to remember.
Five things we learned from Fontaines D.C.’s gig in Manchester:
Fontaines’ sophomore offering, A Hero’s Death, is a masterpiece that arrived at the perfect time in the summer of 2020, amid a cloud of uncertainty, armed with a much-needed sense of optimism. While album opener ‘I Don’t Belong’ concocted an atmospheric feel around the venue, the rest of the show saw the room fill with swirling, tenacious energy.
Hearing Fontaines in a live environment makes for an intense experience, and frontman Grian Chatten was the master of ceremonies, orchestrating the madness of it all. The lead singer didn’t even need to say a word to the crowd during the gig to get it erupting. He was zealous throughout proceedings, and Chatten’s lack of chatting only made the audience get lost in the music more.
A nod to Tom Waits…
A facet to Fontaines’ appeal is that they feel like they are from a different era, and rather than it coming across as though they are deliberately attempting to be a relic of the past, it all comes across naturally. Tom Waits’ ‘Dirt In The Ground’ was an unconventional track to play as a soundtrack to their arrival on stage, but it was a fitting one for the night ahead.
Similarly, Waits wears his literary influences on his sleeve, and that hallowed ‘Beat Generation’ has been a major inspiration from Fontaines since their incarnation. It was a fitting nod to one of their heroes, who helped whip up an appetite that allows a band like them to conquer.
No slow songs allowed
Surprisingly, Fontaines decided against playing some of their most adored songs like Dogrel closer ‘Dublin City Sky’, or mellow cuts from A Hero’s Death, such as ‘Sunny’ and ‘No’.
Although the aforementioned numbers are efforts that I adore, it became understandable to me after the show as to why the Dublin-based band elected to leave them out of their set. Truthfully, they wouldn’t have slotted in amid the wild, frenzied atmosphere they cooked up during their performance.
Admittedly, it was frustrating not to hear them live, but this helped Fontaines D.C. deliver a coruscating rock ‘n’ roll show which raced by at breakneck speed – and what’s not to love about that?
The full works
Usually, when you attend a gig at a 2,500 capacity like Manchester Academy, bands don’t bother with any unnecessary expenses. However, Fontaines didn’t get that memo. ‘Too Real’ proved to be the set’s high point, as countless mammoth balloons reminiscent of eyeballs filled the room.
The unexpected moment of elation enhanced the song and brought a festival atmosphere to an October evening in Manchester. In addition to that, the illuminating light display which Fontaines deployed was a captivating accompaniment and somehow made the show even more enthralling.
Always leave them wanting more…
The above phrase is one of the oldest tricks going and something that Fontaines D.C. have mastered. Their high-intensity gig lasted just over an hour, with the band airing a mere 13-songs and, scandalously, deciding not to play, ‘Liberty Belle’. However, every second on the stage was all killer, no filler.
It’s rare for a concert to be enchanting for the duration, but this is no sweat for Fontaines, with their mesmeric brilliance stopping any trips to the bar. At no point did it drag, and they had the sold-out Mancunian crowd eating out of their hands for the entire visceral performance.
After my soul was cleansed at the hands of the empyreal Irish poets, the gravitas of the evening sunk in, and my first time seeing Fontaines D.C. will live eternally in my memory. A special talent, who remain one of the brightest acts of their generation.