Fontaines D.C. – O2 Academy Leeds – 23/10/21 Live Review

Photo by Aimee Ferrier

Tightly packed into Leeds’ O2 Academy was a sold out crowd excited to see the biggest Irish band to have emerged over recent years, Fontaines D.C. After releasing their second album A Hero’s Death last year, this tour has given them a chance to perform it with the normality of touring pre-pandemic.

Confidently striding on stage, the band tossed roses into the eager crowd, before energetic drumbeats sounded in, and the band performed their second album’s titular track. I had not seen the band since January 2020, before we had any idea that gigs would be off the cards for a long while. Straight away, I could sense that a maturity and confidence had grown in the band since then, with lead singer Grian Chatten interacting with the crowd by waving at audience members on the balcony, and even tossing a piece of his tambourine into the front of the crowd.

The five piece alternated between playing tracks from A Hero’s Death and debut album Dogrel, however they orientated the set towards the latter, playing all but two of its eleven tracks. This might be due to the mellow slant of their sophomore album, leaving many of the tracks unsuitable for a high octane gig when played alongside the energetic tracks of Dogrel.

My personal highlight was “Too Real”, the anticipatory build up exploding into whirring guitars and an enthusiastic crowd to match. This segued straight into “Big”, another fan favourite – short but incredibly sweet. The anthemic choruses of most of their tracks allowed the audience to fully involve themselves in the splendour that Fontaines D.C. created.

The band were perfectly able to blend the more brooding, dulcet tones of certain tracks with their raucous, more explosive songs. “The Lotts” bridged the gap between the darker sounding “I Don’t Belong” and the rowdier “Living In America”. They proved themselves masters of curating the perfect setlist – the time seemed to fly by as the band never provided a dull moment.

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Photo by Aimee Ferrier

As “Boys In The Better Land” played with intensity and excitement evident in the band and crowd alike, I knew the gig was drawing to a close -however the absence of some of their biggest singles indicated an encore was still to come. The boys walked off stage, only to come back a few moments later for “Roy’s Tune”, the perfect moment to catch a breath before jumping into “Liberty Belle”, which had every member of the crowd holding out their arms and chanting the words along with Chatten.

Fontaines D.C. were able to sell out a venue with a 2,300 capacity and showed no struggle in projecting their musicality to every member of the crowd. With the strength of their musical outputs and speed in which they are able to do so, in no time at all I suspect they’ll be headlining bigger venues very soon.

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Black Country, New Road – Live At Queen Elizabeth Hall 6/3/21 Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.
Photo by Mark Allen

For a band revered for their live prowess, gathering acclaim for their explosive and vibrant shows, it’s always a shame that they aren’t currently able to demonstrate this to an in house audience. One of their regular hold-stead’s is The Windmill in Brixton where the band have on many occasions crossed paths with fellow contemporary post-punk/experimental rock outfit Black Midi, forming the supergroup Black Midi, New Road. But on this occasion the band are at a venue as grand as the heights their music reaches.

The band opened with a new, as of so far, live track “Mark’s Theme”, a gentle croon in led by saxophonist Lewis Evans; settling everyone in before the explosion of the rest of the show. They took their time to fully prepare themselves and set into motion playing debut album For The First Time in full. From the moment that drummer Charlie Wayne bashed out the opening beats of “Opus” with even more intensity than the album, you knew this was going to be something special.

The energy that they brought to the stage was simultaneously chaotic and controlled. As lead singer Isaac Wood sought to reek as much havoc as he could with flailing guitar lines and on the opening part of “Science Fair” the rest of the band stayed comfortably in place, waiting for him to land back down. As the distorted guitars got louder and the saxophone lines from Evans got more frantic you could feel every ounce of the bands energy being put into these songs. On the album Wood’s erratic vocals are one of the major driving points of the turbulent nature of the stories that he tells, whether its the wave of empowerment that he gains from simply wearing sunglasses, or wishing he’d never written letters to a past lover, the ferocity is encapsulating. And here he somehow turns this up to 11. Perhaps helped by the fact you can see the despair on his face, but you can feel every woe-some musing cascade from him as if he were your inner psyche.

One thing that you realise when watching the band is how much these songs sound like the studio recordings. Of course that will have been backed up by the sound system going through the same speakers that people at home listen to the album on. But this only demonstrates how in sync and controlled the band really are when playing these songs. Many of which have been around for a few years now, but they still feel as fresh and alive as ever. For many people watching this might be the first performance of the band they’ve seen; it certainly won’t be the last.

An aspect of the band that has been alluring is the level of, or lack of, publicity they give to themselves as individuals, preferring to be recognised as a collective in its whole form rather than a group of individuals. And their stage set up matches that perfectly. Wood is tucked away in the left corner, seemingly to sing at the rest of the band as Evans takes centre stage with saxophone in hand. Each other member equally spaced to give them enough room to shine whilst locking into the bigger picture. Their stage design also kept in theme with this anonymity as well as the album design. A background slideshow of various stock images of people, landscapes and animals all drew the focus onto the music, rather than the imagery.

At one point the select few in the audience stood up, which could be assumed would be for applause. But the actual reason was something much great. The camera’s panned round and every member was holding a microphone, to which they all joined together and sang together as a huge chorus. Adding backing vocals on the tender “Track X”, the dooming cathartic climax of “Opus” and most impressively they gave live staple “Basketball Shoes” a new feeling of explosive grandeur. This joint band/ audience sound only makes you wish to see the band live even more, just to feel the intensity they can create by bringing people together.

This was an incredible showcase of the bands’ dexterity that allowed the concise nature of the their music to expand within the space. Black Country, New Road may be at the very inception of their career, but there’s already so much to be admired. We sure can’t wait to get to admire that spectacle in person.

Setlist:

Mark’s Theme

Instrumental

Athens, France

Science Fair

Sunglasses

Track X

Opus

Bread Song

Basketball Shoes