Fontaines D.C.'s rescheduled Glasgow gig (20/10/2021) was a joyful experience that proved worth the wait.
As the infamous “Barrowlands” neon sign flickered in the near distance, there was a buzz in the air as I entered Glasgow's infamous Gallowgate street and made the short walk towards the city’s iconic east end venue. Even the spits of rain in the Glaswegian sky couldn’t deter my mood. Full of bravado after a couple of pints of Guinness at a nearby Brazillian bar, it definitely hadn’t been lost on me that this was my first gig in 20 months. The closer I neared the coloured venue lettering, the more a feeling of familiarity overcame me. Pre-gig excitement was settling in and it was as if I’d never been away.
With the band expected on stage in half an hour, I followed my usual routine of getting a quick picture of the tacky, bright-lighted sign of the venue. Thankfully the initial, worryingly long queue passed relatively quickly. This was especially surprising considering the recent enactment of the mandatory COVID passport scheme in Scotland which had been expected to delay proceedings.
Before I knew it, I had entered the 1934-built, dance hall establishment again and up the stairs I headed. With an overpriced Magners purchased (sticking with the Irish theme, of course), I found a suitable location to the back right of the stage just in time for the scheduled start time. As I patiently waited, premature cheers from sections of the crowd sporadically spread on a number of occasions before falling flat like a lead balloon. With hopes raised time and again over a long 15-minute period, I stood there attentively for Fontaines D.C.’s first gig in Scotland in two years.
The excitement in the room was palpable for the return of the Dublin post-punk favourites and their unique brand of speak-sing, raw rock ‘n’ roll. This wasn’t just any band we were about to view. You see, in the UK, Fontaines are now amongst the most celebrated bands of the last few years, gaining recognition on the likes of daytime Radio 1 and being nominated for Brit Awards and Grammy’s. The most impressive part is that this growing mainstream appeal has all been achieved on their own terms. As a result, they’ve picked up a cult-like following up and down the British Isles. This was evidenced, of course, by this evening's all-encompassing crowd which ranged from teenage girls to middle-aged men trying to relive their Britpop party days.
At 9.15 pm the venue fell dark and the stomping, Celtic-punk of The Pogues’ ‘Boys of the County Hell’ spread through the Barrowlands dancefloor like wildfire. As the song neared its’ conclusion, Shane MacGowan’s vocals were lowered and a loud cheer arose again from the front of the audience. Thankfully, this time, it was no false alarm and the five-piece band confidently marched onto the stage to a hero's welcome.
Frontman Grian Chatten paced the stage with a nervous energy you’d expect see from a wee boy on Christmas morning about to open his presents. Sporting a bright blue, baggy tracksuit, he threw flowers into an already adoring audience. It was a signal that convention wasn’t on the menu for this evening’s performance.
And into ‘A Hero’s Death’ they launched. The lead single from last year’s second album was easily one of the best indie tracks released in 2020, so it felt like a fitting start to proceedings. Grian’s husky refrain of “Life ain’t always empty!’ was matched in ferocity by the thousands of contributing onlookers, particularly from yours truly after months of gig starvation.
Over the following hour and 20 minutes, they eased through songs from 2019 debut Dogrel and their latest record A Hero's Death with an absurdity and rawness you’re unlikely to find elsewhere. Needing little encouragement, moshpits were formed for ‘Hurricane Laughter’ and ‘Too Real’, with the gaps in between vocals filled with the infamous local, semi-ironic chant, “here we, here we, here we f***ing go”. Even this ned-friendly audience participation felt like music to my ears. It had been far too long.
Only one track failed to hit the mark. ‘Televised Mind’ felt distractingly out of key at points with a botched guitar solo and the general sound not matching the intensity of the studio version of the track. However, the band were soon excused after performing tracks ‘The Lotts’ and ‘Roy’s Tune’ with a certain poetic, flawless elegance that reminded us of the depth and variety the band have in their locker.
Whilst last year’s effort was so well-received (and finished top of my year review), the crowd’s acclaim and outward praise were saved for Dogrel’s ‘Boys in the Better Land’ and ‘Big’, whilst ‘Liberty Belle’ finished the gig on a particularly explosive note.
As the band exited the stage, and the full beams hit our eyes, we departed The Barrowlands with a similar swagger to the one in which we’d entered. A fantastic performance from the Dublin post-punk band who, over the space of two years, have established themselves in an elite few of indie bands at the top of their game both on record and live.