Shame perform an exhilarating set in Leeds on their victory lap of the UK, performing alongside two fantastic support acts for what in years to come could be looked at as a 'classic' bill
In January, London based punk quintet Shame released their debut album Songs of Praise to widespread critical acclaim.
Now, as 2018 draws to a close, the group are seeing out a tremendous year with a final run around the UK, stopping off at Stylus, the underground venue in the student area of Leeds, bringing fellow youthful post-punk groups Fontaines D.C. and HMLTD along for the ride.
Fontaines D.C. introduce themselves around halfway through their set, which is largely made up of ramshackle garage rock led by frontman Grian Chatten, who onstage is agitated and fidgety, an angular figure grasping the mic stand in the desperate hope it keeps him still. The rest of the group also project the feeling of painful restrain against the impulses of their music, moving mostly in unexpected jerks and ticks as the hard, loud drums and speeding guitars begin to lose control. They have the songs at their disposal to propel them into spots such as the nights headline act, the raucous new single “Too Real”, “Boys From the Better Land” and “Chequeless Reckless” in which the sardonic spirit of Mark E Smith is strong in Chatten’s deadpan vocal, are all fantastic and suggest that their debut album will be unmissable. “Liberty Belle” is somewhat more conventional, a surf rock/bubblegum pop riff not unlike something you’d hear on a Ramones, Modern Lovers or more recently a Vaccines record, complete with backing vocal “Ooohs”, though Fontaines D.C. stamp it all their own with Chatten’s Irish drawl and quick-fire delivery, making it an endearing, poppier moment.
Following Fontaines D.C. come HMLTD, and whilst I’d argue you could not have brought together two varyingly different acts, the crowd is all the richer from both performances. Frontman Henry Spychalski struts on stage, adorned in a snakeskin duster coat and leather chaps, performing in tremendously theatrical voice “Is This What You Wanted?”, a question which could be thrown at many of the attendees, who vary from the young devotees driven to frenzy by Spychalski’s every gyration, or the gaping mouths of the unimpressed. Even if it was not what we wanted, it was what we were getting.
Their glam attire and onstage flamboyance may have seemed a little contrived to some, but I personally can’t argue against the groups energy and the inspired mix of sounds they put forward, such as the playful Eurodance bleeps of “Music!” or the spaghetti western like punk gallop of “To The Door”. Under the shuddering stage lights HMLTD are a striking live act, outlandish and at times unsettling, and with more performances like this, they too will surely be topping bills in the near future.
Shame open with the excellent “Dust on Trial” and from then on never let up,by “The Lick”, vocalist Charlie Steen is shirtless and hot pink in skin. They are a powerful force onstage, occupying a space somewhere in-between the shuffling and agitated Fontaines D.C. and the manic theatrics of HMLTD. Steen is often found down on the barrier, sharing the microphone with outstretching fans, whilst bassist Josh Finnerty repeatedly barrels himself across the stage, both of them wearing ear wide smiles.
Along with songs from Songs of Praise (many of which sound rougher, edgier and more natural in a live environment; a good thing), Shame perform a handful of new tracks, commenting that they have been “working hard”. Clearly true, as a highlight is “Exhaler” which features a somewhat sunny (remember; somewhat) instrumental, a fairground like circling guitar riff, though it descends in familiar Shame territory with a pounding and ferocious ending; Steen hounding the crowd with the climaxing refrain “What’s wrong with that!”. “Concrete” “One Rizla” “Tasteless” and “Friction” are all performed with unrelenting vigour, the latter being described by Steen as “a dance song”, and in it I do detect Happy Mondays “24hr Party People”; if only it was played by Gang of Four.
They finish with “Gold Hole” and rush back out for a blistering encore of “Donk”, and through observing Steen, steely eyed with sweat drenched peroxide hair, it is hard not to connect him to an image of John Lydon in 1977. A loaded comparison to make I know, and whilst I wish not to suggest the notion that Shame are to be compared to the cultural tidal wave from which The Sex Pistols came, but what with this evenings impressive bill of three young and impassioned modern groups, as well as others such as IDLES (who too played here not more than a month ago) it does feel that in 2018, there is a growing sense that something is happening.