4.5

Fontaines D.C. are on a roll and not slowing down. Their out-store show in Brighton last Sunday made that clear.

There’s something very special about a room full of people screaming “Life ain’t always empty”, a lyric from Fontaines D.C.‘s A Hero’s Death. The explosive Ireland five-piece stopped by Chalk in Brighton for an out store show for the release of new album Skinty Fia.

Resident Records has been on an absolute roll with its events calendar, and so it was little surprise but a great pleasure to see Fontaines announced. The band has been consistently smashing it since their debut album Dogrel, but the new release and recent tour sees the band take a level up, becoming more assertive and assured in their identity.

Understanding Fontaines D.C.

You can try and pin Fontaines D.C. as many things. Some hail them as the saviors of guitar music, others see them as a band of troubled poets. There are also many comparisons often made, Joy Division, The Fall, Wire, etc. But here’s the beautiful thing about Fontaines D.C., while all these comparisons and labels may be accurate, they actively subvert it all, boldly and carelessly pursuing their own individual path. Frontman Grian Chatten has even hinted at abandoning the guitar-centered sound entirely on the next project.

Grian Chatten

What occurs to me almost immediately as the group step on stage is that Chatten is one of the greatest frontmen of our time. I recall he said only two phrases between songs, following a grin towards a bandmate, he says “Now that’s a well-spent smile”, and then after the penultimate song, “Don’t worry this is the last song”. What mattered far more than the little he did say, was how much he didn’t need to say. Chatten’s performance is raw, aggressive, and passionate. Often moving in a way that half resembles moshing with himself, he is deeply embedded in the music, and watching him lead the band is astounding.

Perhaps a cheaply made comparison, but there’s a real air of Ian Curtis in Chatten’s demeanor. At times the Fontaines frontman is seen slapping himself, pulling at his hair, embracing raw, unbridled aggression and passion as he sees fit. At moments of quiet between songs, he condemns his mic stand to the stage floor with absolute rage. The vibration echoes through the room before they swiftly burst into the next track.

The rest of the band are absolutely stellar, and not just in a supportive role for their frontman. They play totally in their own rights as reconstructed, modernised portraits of rockstars. As the group smash through a mix of new and old tunes, the audience is constantly electrified. Every poetic word is screamed straight back at the stage with a passion rarely incited to this degree.

A Hero’s Death

Certain songs noticeably had a stronger effect than others, one being A Hero’s Death. Taken from their second album, the song is a list of principles and prescriptions in pursuit of happiness, divided by the line “Life ain’t always empty”. It was a really poignant experience to be among a group of people echoing lines like these:

Don’t get stuck in the past
Say your favourite things at mass
Tell your mother that you love her
And go out of your way for others
Sit beneath a light that suits ya
And look forward to a brighter future

Sink as far down as you can be pulled up
Happiness really ain’t all about luck
Let your demeanour be your deep down self
And don’t sacrifice your life for your health
When you speak, speak sincere
And believe me friend, everyone will hear

Life ain’t always empty”

An audience, along with the band, chants these commandments as reminders to themselves and instructions to others in a colossal moment of energy. The feeling in the room at this point is something I’ll remember for a long time.

Final Thoughts

What a performance from a band that refuses to be pinned down, will unapologetically and unrequitedly be themselves, and are one of the most exciting live acts around today. It was an absolute privilege to see these guys in a uniquely small venue.

Setlist:

  • In Ar gCroithe Go Deo
  • A Lucid Dream
  • Sha Sha Sha
  • Roman Holiday
  • I Don’t Belong
  • A Televised Mind
  • Nabokov
  • Big Shot
  • How Cold Love Is
  • I Love You
  • A Hero’s Death
  • Skinty Fia
  • Jackie Down The Line

Written by

Drew Manning

Drew Manning is the Owner and Lead Editor of Alibi London.