With their debut album, ‘Songs of Praise’, crowned Rough Trade’s album of the year, Shame rolled into Dublin for their third and final Irish performance of 2018 in The Tivoli Theatre for what may well be remembered as the last real hurrah of the venue that’s set to be torn down in January and replaced with yet another City Centre hotel – God forbid we’d build any homes. The closure of yet another venue is a sad indictment on the priorities of our government and further emphasises the need for a directly elected mayor and a nightlife tsar in the capital.
Shame are long-time admirers of Dublin acts Fontaines D.C. and The Murder Capital, and it’s great to see such rising stars giving their platform to local talent; something which many successful Irish rarely endeavour to do, but that’s a conversation for a different day.
The presence of two of Ireland’s most promising outfits on a bill in Dublin shouldn’t feel like a novelty in 2018; it should be par for the course, but it feels momentous. The undercard has generated as much excitement as the top billing within Dublin, and there is a palpable sense that this is a milestone moment for both, that this is the type of event for which people will lie about attending in the future.
Thankfully, both live up to the hype. We last saw The Murder Capital performing at Oslo – The Otherkin-helmed monthly showcase in The Workman’s. It was instantly evident that though still in their infancy, they had much more to offer than your average band on the scene. Several months on and many of the flaws have been ironed out; frontman James McGovern has found a rhythm of his own making, rather than trying to ape the likes of Ian Curtis in movement and delivery.
The band are due to enter the studio with heavy-weight producer Flood and tonight they deliver a performance which justifies that alignment. Clear, direct and purposeful, McGovern resembles a young Dave Gahan, confidently delivering his dark manifesto on modern living. The Murder Capital are a band finding their own groove and go to Flood with blueprints that could potentially deliver something truly special.
Fontaines D.C. arrive on stage to high expectations having shot to prominence in 2018, signing for Partisan Records and wowing crowds around Europe with their snarling poetic take on the world. Tracks such as Boys From The Better Land and current single Too Real are delivered with an effortless cool. The crowd singing back every word like a scene from a rural mass in the ‘60s. Singer Grian Chatten’s lyrics are a bleak, thought-provoking observationalist tour de force – “Money, is the sandpit of the soul” – which mainline current and age-old problems with frank, ephemeral and surrealist prose, combining to create austerity poetry. With heavy touring of the US and UK on the horizon, Fontaines D.C. are more than ready to take on the world.
It’s a credit to The Murder Capital and Fontaines D.C. that, by the time Shame arrive on stage, it feels as if those in attendance have already filled their boots and what follows is akin to a secret set at a festival.
Shame singer Charlie Steen cuts the figure of Rutger Hauer in his ’80s pomp – bleach-blonde, oversized sunglasses, white shirt and tie – as he bounds onto the Tivoli stage and gets straight down to business. The shirt and glasses don’t last and before long Steen is perched upon shoulders mid-crowd belting out Gold Hole’s rousing chorus of “Shake me off”, while breakthrough hit One Rizla showcases the band’s ability to capture the essence of modern urban living with aplomb. Even Steen momentarily slipping mid-verse couldn’t derail this performance. Friction drips with the type of maxed out Madchester swagger that would like to crucify some brother today.
Indeed, much of Shame’s material examines the urban hinterland experience of existing, but being invisible to or marginalised by Government thinking. It’s a universal experience felt in Dublin and London and Paris and Madrid. The incontinent truth of the working class. Those pesky human rights, the poor have notions. This is why bands likes IDLES and Shame resonate so strongly today. They scream the inconvenient truth that poor people exist, and they won’t go quietly into that good night. So, while Shame’s music may not be revolutionary, it certainly soundtracks the fight for social progress. As John Lennon once said; a working class hero is something to be. However, unlike the mansion-bound Beatle, Charlie Steen and co deliver their message with both eyes firmly on paying the rent because, for now at least, they are the real deal.