Fontaines D.C. have just finished their first major tour across Europe, a tour that essentially was off the back of a couple of outrageously good singles last year and at pessimistically smaller venues. It was sold out everywhere. The Gorilla in Manchester, sold out this night, has a capacity of up to 700 punters. In November, Fontaines D.C return to play across the road at the O2 Apollo with a capacity of 3,500. The other night, they played on Jimmy Fallon in the US to an audience of over 2 million. You get the message: this is a band that is exploding globally on the strength of a debut album – Dogrel – that is getting rave reviews everywhere. As it should. It is extraordinarily good.It is much, much more than a neo-punk album: it is instrumentally complex and poetic, delicately restrained at times and explosive at others.
Tonight at the Gorilla there was a sense of a special occasion: seeing a band playing at a venue far smaller than it deserves on the brink of global domination.
Fellow Dubliners, Just Mustard played a brilliant short support set. Perhaps overawed by the venue that was already filled to capacity, they literally shoe-gazed their way through an impressive, muscular set: a steady spinal rhythm section with wailing, structured guitars and their singer’s achingly beautiful vocals slipping over the top.Well worth further exploration.
Fontaines D.C. took to the stage with a roaring swagger, singer Grian Chatten portraying all the pose and attitude of a seasoned rock star: enigmatic, charismatic with a dash of arrogance. And I have to say, flashes of Ian Curtis in his performance. It’s exactly what you want from a rock band. At this point I should make an apology for the terrible photography: I was up front and centre and the crowd just exploded into a frenzied mosh pit. It was electric but not that conducive to decent photography.
The band ripped into ‘Hurricane Laughter’ and barely took the foot off the accelerator, going randomly through every track off ‘Dogrel’, with the quieter, more reflective ‘Roy’s Tune’ placed half way through. There was no encore and an apparently strict curfew. Highlight amongst many was the delivery of ‘Boys from the Better Land’ – one of the best singles of 2018 – which is already an iconic song but pefectly suited for a driving, aggressive live performance ramping up the already delirious crowd.
Penultimate song, ‘Dublin City Sky’ had all the hallmarks of a Pogues Celtic folk ballad and proved a magic anthemic lighter burning rest before the bluster and swagger of ‘Big’ ended an extraordinary gig.
The songs from ‘Dogrel’ are uniformly brilliant, and, live, delivered perfectly with passion and energy that outstripped the recorded version. Fontaines D.C. are the perfect live band – loud, aggressive and cooler than you. Guitarist crowd surfing, mosh pit chaos and such a degree of passion displayed both on and off stage, it could have been a pentecostal religious revival, but was far deeper and more meaningful than that.
Sha Sha Sha
Boys in the Better Land
Dublin City Sky
‘Dogrel is out now. Get it.