Live Review: Shame – O2 Ritz, Manchester 24.11.2021 plus gallery

Scene in the Steen household at the end of another day at the coal face.

“Hi dear, did you slay the masses again with your angular post punk tunes”?

Charlie: Yep!

And did you crowd surf amongst your adoring fans?

Charlie: Yes, I did!

And did you get your top off on stage again?

Charlie: Affirmative.

You can take all three of those things for granted, as I’ve never seen Charlie fail to do any of them live. Shame are viewed with some suspicion in certain quarters of the UK music scene. Ostensibly I think because they openly admitted The Fall are one of their influences. Earlier in the year, in an interview with Far Out Magazine, Steen even name checked Grotesque, as one of his favourite 9 albums. Some Fall fans set the bar very high for anyone who acknowledges MES.

Tonight’s audience is certainly a wide cross section, with plenty of punters old enough to be the bands parents, mixed in with the 20 somethings. Shame are certainly not a teen band.

Track 1 Alphabet from latest album, Drunk Tank Pink opens the set, the closet they get to sounding like IDLES. The £5 Foam Fingers from the merch stand, jab the air in time. It sounds just as good live as on vinyl. Nearly a year on since it was released, it forms the bulk of the set, as you’d expect from a band with only 2 albums to pick from. 6/1 follows but things really warm up with live favourite, Concrete, with its call and response vocals. Charlie Steen is a real performer, he’s on the edge of the stage, engaging with the fans. It’s a personal fave and marks the end of my 3 song stint in the crowded photo pit. Some poor etiquette and unflattering lighting have made it a bigger challenge than it should be. It’s infuriating when bands get more interesting after your access expires. Oh well, off to the back for a few shots from the mixing desk, as tonight the balcony is out of bounds!

Latest single, This Side Of The Sun, does find it into the set and there is a touch of Mark E Smith, in both lyrics and vocal delivery, with the elongation of short syllables-ah! Charlie is off into the crowd and before long he stands in front of us, stripped to the waist. The Lick, is Happy Monday-ish in places, echoes of Kinky Afro in part. “I don’t want to be heard, if you’re the only one listening”, on pretty safe ground there Charlie.

Nigel Hitter, which I have to admit I misread as Nigel Hitler, the first time I read the album cover, is not about Farage and treads carefully through Gang Of Four territory.

Tasteless is a real live anthem and there’s a real maturity about the new material, that shows how easily they’ve tackled “difficult 2nd album” syndrome, with tracks like March Day, Harsh Degrees, Water In The Well dropping seamlessly into the set, alongside old faves like Dust On Trial, Angie and the self-effacing One Rizla (Well I’m not much to look at, and I ain’t much to hear.) And so all good things have to end and it’s the 6 and a half minute album closer, Station Wagon, to end the night. Foam fingers are still punctuating the air as I turn to leave. A walk of shame? Nope, head held high and buzzing. 

In today’s musical landscape, they inhabit the same space as Fontaines DC, IDLES, Mush and The Blinders. All amazing bands but very different. Like a seasoned wine taster, sampling the latest South American reds, I get notes of XTC, Futureheads, Gang of Four, Franz Ferdinand, At The Drive In and even early U2 in the mix. Full bodied certainly, dark and brooding too. Perfect for any occasion.

Shame (click on thumbnail for full image)

Previous Album review: Mumble Tide - 'Everything Ugly': a short, sweet-as mini-album burst from the insouciant Bristolians on their way to massive things
Next Album review: Cluster - 'Cluster 71': the German electronica scene on the cusp of breaking through, lovingly reissued

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