Sheffield has some great venues, but this was my first time at Shakespeare’s – it won’t be the last. It’s one of those lovely old rooms above a pub where gigs are as barrier-free and communal as they get. Also, great sound, good acoustics and a surprisingly massive stage.
We were spoilt with two supports from Sheffield’s own Precious Metals and then Local Heroes Slash Fiction whose Queer Emo Punk is surely destined for great things.
First, a Declaration of Interest: I LOVE Fightmilk, and their second album, Contender, is in my top 5 of 2021. I’ve been waiting to see them live for yonks, and not just so I can wear their ‘I was brave at a Fightmilk gig’ patch. But, as with so many bands, the pandemic screwed their plans: it was released in May and only now is being toured; a shame because Live is what these songs were built for (and in much bigger venues one day if there is a just God).
Tonight, they kick off with three bangers in a row – Lucky Coin, Annabelle (handclaps ahoy), The Absolute State of Me – and then make room for a sad one, the mournful If You Had A Sister which deals with a recurrent theme, toxic masculinity
By the way, This band are funny. Very funny (Fightmilk – yes, they are named after the alcoholic protein shake “for bodyguards, by bodyguards” from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia). The sardonic chat between singer/guitarist Lily and guitarist Alex (and sometimes Lily’s mum in the audience) glues all the songs together and brings the audience into the party. Also, they do their homework – they taught me, a Yorkshireman, that in 2005, British Airways labelled Hebden Bridge 4th Funkiest town in the world in 2005. Who knew?
It’s this wry wit that infuses songs like I’m starting to Think You Don’t Want to Go To Space, whose jet-back humour and huge chorus skewers those people who have a lot to say but do nothing. And the spoken word bridge ‘I’m escaping to the one place that hasn’t been corrupted by capitalism…Space’ ? well, Space becomes Sheffield. Of course.
But it’s the tender songs which are elevated most – in tribute to Stephen Sondheim, they segue a snippet of Send in the clowns into Maybe, the vulnerable, wounded anchor of the album which becomes an emotional anthem to stir the stoniest heart ‘; building into a massive climax and audience singalong (‘And you know me like your own skin. In the backseat when it’s dark outside. And it’s frightening for a moment – Then it’s just like breathing’)
After the stone-cold banger of a closer, Overbite, the band cant go off the stage, so with a lot of exaggerated winking, turn their backs to us before ‘surprising‘ us with the encore. And for those of us of a certain age, that encore was a delight – A rousing version of the actual best Killers song, ‘Jenny Was A Friend of Mine’
Great venue, great support, great headliners. Do yourself a favour and pop over to Spotify and look them up.