Dublin’s troubadours with a tendency towards the really loud downsize for War Child while showcasing songs from new album Skinty Fia
Big band, small venue. It’s the general thinking behind this (series of) gigs taking place as part of the BRITs Week, presented by Mastercard for War Child. Not a complicated idea, nor a new one, but then again, most of the best ideas aren’t. Besides, the incongruity of an act all the way up ‘there’ coming all the way back down to ‘here’ does usually add more than a frisson of excitement.
And there’s no doubt that Dublin’s Fontaines DC are now a big act. Last time they were in London they filled the grand hall of Alexandra Palace, so the 600 capacity Dome in Tufnell Park is definitely a slight downsizing. Yet it really wasn’t that long ago that this would have been a fairly standard sized room for them.
It isn’t like this is a return to the spit-n-sawdust, sticky floored world of gigging after two decades globetrotting in branded 747s. For Fontaines DC it’s all happened quite fast. Debut album in 2019 (Dogrel). Second album in 2020 (A Hero’s Death). Third album (Skinty Fia) due this spring. There’s no hanging about, and there is a focus and determination to the way they are going about their business.
There’s certainly a lot tonight which is steely of eye. Opener Too Real extends from wiry beginnings to crashing squalls of noise. The kind of noise that becomes majestic and beautiful in its brutality. Televised Mind is prowling and poised, bassline looming gothically like the buttresses of a 14th century cathedral. The itchy A Lucid Dream is greeted by a crowd singing the opening riff back to the band, a sign of quite how iconic the band are coming.
We are, as frontman Grian Chatten tells us, “guinea pigs” for some new material. Rollicking recent single Jackie Down The Line gets its first live airing. Roman Holiday gets its first airing full stop, and displays similar, more acoustic tendencies. Best of the three is I Love You, growing from a swinging beat and chiming guitars in something urgent and vital. Chatten spends a lot of his time in motion. Circling the stage, oscillating to and from the microphone, pausing to gesticulate and rouse the crowd, then rapidly returning to his base with the urgency of a man who has plenty more to say.
When they roll through a splenetic Big into a frenzied Hurricane Laughter into an incandescent I Was Not Born it is utterly tremendous. A trio which juxtapose a set of lyrics that drip with a poetic elegance against a cacophonous barrage of drums and riffs. They don’t say much, they just play. There’s no fuss, no gimmickry, just class. Troubadours with a tendency towards the really loud, you’ll likely find them in increasingly large venues.