Fresh from a punishing US Tour Shame return to their hometown ready to prove that they are no longer a weekend garage band. In the four years since the band started, they have grown from teenagers to young men, and their repertoire and fan base have grown with them. Just as they cut their teeth with a string of determined live shows in 2017, so they introduce even newer bands Fontaines DC and Sorry who are opening for them across the tour.
The first of two opening acts, Fontaines DC look like an old-school garage band, a pack of socially awkward youths in ill-fitting clothes drawn together by their difference to everyone else and their love of music. Their sound harks back to a time of The Undertones and Joy Division, they are headed up by lead singer Grian Chatten who paces the stage in a circle as if to burn off the excess energy being created by the music.
Most songs are underpinned by bass with guitars scratching out thick melodies. Their short set opens with Chequeless Reckless and peaks on the better-known tracks like Boys in the Better Land, the later an upbeat catchy tune with a chunky bass, clean acoustic strum crashing drums. This is a band to follow right now while they are still a little bit raw.
The second of tonight’s openers is London’s own Sorry. Sorry are an understated band who exude a strange calm on stage. Their songs are sultry with a distinctive softness to the vocals and a sadness in the melodies. These are dystopian songs drenched in melancholy, this is most apparent on songs like Showgirl and 2 Down 2 Dance.
Drummer Lincoln Barrett is bold and hammers the skins with strength and consistency which feels pleasantly at odds with the reedy voice of the frontwoman Asha Lorenz. They really shine when they shift gears to faster paced songs like Starstruck. Lorenz is a contained frontperson, it is quite refreshing to see a singer so composed and at ease and effortlessly cool.
Once the supporting acts have played out their handful of songs the stage is cleared and re-set leaving the whole body of the stage empty of equipment and wires, with good cause. Shame are neither composed or calm, and the stage has probably been cleared in the interests of health and safety. It’s an audience of opposites tonight, the young stylish and hip folks on one hand and the bald, grey and wisened on the other. I like to think both groups know a good thing when they hear it, the proof is a sold-out show and a venue packed to the rafters.
As a live act Shame arrive on stage with more pomp and showmanship than each previous gig. Their confidence is growing with each outing which is saying something given the self-assurance of lead singer Charlie Steen. Belting out recent track Dust on Trial they blaze with high energy and anger. Steen is quick to leave the stage and get involved in the crowd. Between songs he announces “F**k, it feels good to be home!”
They introduce new song Human early in the set it is a melodic, pop tune with cascading guitars which hints at the next direction in their developing sound. Clearly ecstatic, Steen reminds the crowd that the band only started four years ago when the band were 16 and 17 years old. “We used to play gigs at Queens Head in Brixton. We were slim and young, we had dignity… we’ve lost that all now.” This is a fitting lament ahead of the rowdy, One Rizla.
The band smash around the stage against a backdrop of blood-red stage lighting. Shame encapsulate the raw energy and fury of youth in a way that hasn’t been seen since the days of The Clash. This comparison is reinforced on The Lick, the vocals are part spoken and part atonal shouting, bit it sounds f-ing great. Guitarist Eddie Green bounds around the stage in high frog leaps, practically flying while Steen returns to the crowd only to be engulfed while an assault of lights flashes behind them from the stage.
The stage lights flicker on and off in flashes of red and blue like police sirens Steen abandons his US uniform shirt and roars through Tasteless, as he is met with a huge chanting chorus from the fans. After catching his breath, he appeals to them, “Are you feeling flexible? We would appreciate it if you move your hips and enjoy yourselves” as if being given permission to let go, the crowd becomes one animal and pulses in time to the beat on Friction. Steen punches out his arms to the chorus in uncontrollable outbursts.
Feeling visibly overwhelmed, Steen reminds the audience, “We played the songs to like five people in a pub, when we had school, when we had work, and now…” On Exhaler, in front of an amber glow of lights, Steen returns to his Joe Strummer level of intense vocals which are balanced with racing drums, a smooth melody and big, crunchy guitar parts.
They carry the crowd with them until the end of Angie by building energy and insisting the crowd clap along which provides drummer Charlie Forbes with additional percussion. The momentum reaches a peak on Lampoon as Green throws himself into a somersault across the ice blue haze of backlight, springing back to his feet to fling himself from the drum plinth.
Announced as the last song of the evening Gold Hole is delivered with gutsy power. Steen bends backwards with his whole torso to deliver the notes with the fullest force before charging into the audience, walking over the swell of people who reach up with grabbing hands and support him completely upright as he strides across the sea of limbs. Returning only briefly for an encore of fiery punk pop Donk for tonight their work is done, but what comes next will be met with heavy anticipation.
Photography by Simon Jay Price and review by Sarah Sievers of Shame at The Forum Kentish Town on 30th November 2018.
The tour continues in Europe and back in the US in 2019: –
Sunday 09 December 2018
SO36, Berlin, Germany
Wednesday 12 December 2018
Luxor, Cologne, Germany
Friday 14 December 2018
Élysée Montmartre Paris, Paris, France
Friday 17 May 2019 – Sunday 19 May 2019
Gulf Shores, AL, US
Wednesday 22 May 2019
Black Cat, Washington, DC, US
Friday 24 May 2019 – Monday 27 May 2019
Downtown Las Vegas Events Center – DLVEC, Las Vegas, NV, US