Fontaines D.C. @ The O2 Guildhall Southampton, 09/10/21

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Huge presence

A fantastic band with a massive stage presence, slightly stunted by a poor sound deck and a venue slightly too large for optimum intimacy.

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For all the things that Covid snatched from us, there’s one thing many of us truly missed – live music. The sweaty, intimate kind and all that comes with it.

Whether it be overpriced venue booze, the long queues, and of course the two contrasting mobs of sweaty middle-aged men and the superbly dressed indie kids filling up the majority of the floor space- only kept apart by the sweaty moshers who have enough alcohol swimming in their bloodstream to kill a horse- there’s nothing quite like that atmosphere. You may find flashes of it in a club, but it’s never quite the same. As Kurt Cobain said, live music is like a game of tennis with vibes between the crowd and the performers. That kind of passion just isn’t there when there’s only some bloke with a 3 on top, shaved back and sides and a polo shirt dancing around behind a raised table playing his mate’s DnB playlist through the club PA. 

The opening band for Fontaines D.C. was another Irish band called The Altered Hours who were generally a rather tight band, and a good warm up for Fontaines D.C. As my new acquaintance and fellow audience member put it; “Good noise, not sure if the tunes are forthcoming”. Oh Miles, such a way with words. In all fairness it was a good summary, they were a good band, made a “good noise”, however they lacked the flair of individuality that really catches the attention of larger crowds.

I feel the band were let down by the sound team at the venue, although this issue was predicted as the gig had been delayed around 40 minutes because of a necessary extension to the sound check. The issues with the sound meant that only one of the band’s guitarists had fully functioning sound; the other had to send death threats to the sound desk via sign language for most of their set. Although somewhat lacking individuality and uniqueness, the band was very good. I think this is largely to the group being relatively new. They still need to find “their sound”. They’re mainly set in psychedelic rock, helped hugely by the bassist’s dirty tone, however I can’t help but feel they need to be more confident in a solid identity in a band to help them gain a stronger stage presence. That said, overall they were a rather good band.

As soon as Fontaines D.C. walked on, it was clear the stage and all that lay upon it was theirs. There really isn’t any false façade with Fontaines D.C., they know what they’re going to deliver and there’s no degree of the now ever-present ‘mainstream humility’ found in the music industry. They came to deliver what they do best without all the niceties and over the top glamour, which is pretty rock’n’roll. The frontman Grian Chatten walked on with a bouquet of flowers and lobbed them into the audience as the amps were heating up and the band was starting their introduction to the set. The intimacy of the band was what you’d expect from a post punk band, where the audience makes up for the majority of the experience of the gig, screaming along with the lyrics, which in the case of Fontaines D.C. is the soul of their content as a band. This was particularly seen in their songs, “Big”, “A Hero’s Death” and “Boys in the Better Land”, although all of them show fantastic lyrical writing.

Emerging first as poets, and then moving on to music to accommodate their poetry (akin to other musical greats like Patti Smith, or The Smiths), the lyrics of Fontaines D.C. bear much more weight than lyrics of other bands which the crowd may sing along to if they fancy joining in. Each sentence has something special to it, especially when sung by both the band and the audience in that moment. When you’re in one of those moments at a live gig, time and outside existence seems to melt away, a kind of escapism only found in the intensity of live music. Although this was achieved to some extent at the Guildhall, it lacked the same intensity that a smaller venue provides, the kind of environment Fontaines D.C. thrives in. They still delivered an intense show and unity with the audience, but due to the larger size of the venue it wasn’t quite as intimate as it could’ve been. 

All in all, you’ve got to see Fontaines D.C. live. Lyrical geniuses with an enormous stage presence, and an undeniable talent for writing music, just try and catch them at a smaller venue if you want to see them on top form. 

Fontaines D.C. are on tour in the UK until the 27th of October, and although many of their dates are now sold out, you can still buy tickets for Bournemouth (26th) and London (27th) here.

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