Fontaines DC, Academy, Glasgow ****
In online life, where tribes exist in fragmentary bubbles driven by politics and personal taste, it seems unlikely the concept of a “band of a generation” holds much water any more. Yet still, there’s something about Dublin’s Fontaines DC which sounds acutely like youth in the 2020s, downtrodden but defiant, and still capable of great peaks of energy and excitement.
For brief moments they sounded like second-string Cure or Echo and the Bunnymen imitators; Roman Holiday was a particularly dull song in this set. Yet there was a weird compulsion to Grian Chatten’s pained and sometimes monotonous delivery, less that of a rock personality and more a characterisation of someone beaten down but fighting back. The band started out writing poetry, and their lyrical style pays tribute to great shared heroes, from James Joyce to Allen Ginsberg, and Shane McGowan to William McGonagall.
The echoing, grimy anti-glamour of their music is what gives it life. The sad, cynical but ultimately anthemic Roy’s Tune and the regretful, hard-to-pin-down poetry of Jackie Down the Line, lead single from this year’s third album Skinty Fia, didn’t require a crowd going wild around them to be absorbed and enjoyed.
Their reputation, though, is ultimately built on those moments where the audience feel inspired to do just that. With a simple array of spotlights and strobes strafing the balcony and their name illuminated in gothic script behind them – and in the colours of the Irish flag at one point – the set’s highlights were the ones which sent a thunderous rhythm shaking through the building.
From the mighty opener A Hero’s Death to the on-edge jitter of Chequeless Reckless, the angle-grinder riffing of Too Real and the power finale of Televised Mind, Big and Boys in the Better Land (with the muted I Love You lending the set a purposely low-key full stop), it was a show to find unity in amid the dark times and the good.