mon 16/12/2019

Fontaines DC, SWG3, Glasgow review - Irish rockers let down by shaky sound | reviews, news & interviews

Fontaines DC, SWG3, Glasgow review - Irish rockers let down by shaky sound

Fontaines DC, SWG3, Glasgow review - Irish rockers let down by shaky sound

Break-out Dublin band struggles to connect with the crowd

Fontaines DC have had an excellent year, but had mixed fortunes at SWG3Richard Dumas

Time moves fast in the music business. It has only been a matter of months since Fontaines DC were playing the far smaller confines of King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut in Glasgow, and here they were at a sold out SWG3, celebrating the success of debut album “Dogrel”. If that record is one of the finest released this year, then this gig was not quite the victory lap hoped for, albeit still a show that displayed evidence of their quality.

The record itself is rich in thoughtful lyricism, the nuances of which were somewhat lost in a live setting. That was not particularly problematic, because the sheer sound of the band retained a rough, raw nature that is exhilarating when it hits, starting with the runaway freight train of “Hurricane Laughter” and continuing with a spikey “Chequeless Reckless”, letting the band’s rhythm section of bassist Conor Deegan and drummer Tom Coll create a backdrop that was almost punishing.

The 70 minute set that ensued was suitably direct and punchy, all but shorn of chat. Instead singer Grian Chatten paced around relentlessly, as if seeking an outlet for his frustration. At his best, he seemed to unload all that tension in a snappy roar of a vocal, brief declarations being spat out with increasing venom, as on a sharp “Too Real.”

And yet, despite an excellent record being played well, chunks of this set fell flat. It was not totally the band’s fault, because the venue itself never seemed ideal. The sound, which should be vibrant and edgy, instead drifted together into an indecipherable mix at times, with the likes of “Roy’s Tune” floating right to the back of the room. While those crowded at the front offered commendable energy, a hefty amount of the audience were static, as if they were still making their minds up about what was on display. These are exciting songs with plenty of emotion, but they lose something when greeted with mild head nodding.

The band are, of course, learning as they go, stepping up to bigger crowds and stages, and there were points where there wasn’t the connection between band and crowd needed, and the result was a stop-start feel to the show. Perhaps a venue like the Barrowland might have fitted better, and generated something more raucous.

Thankfully their two most directly poppy moments, delivered back to back, delivered a jolt of energy, with the punky yet melodic “Liberty Belle” and the Them-aping garage rock of “Boys In The Better Land” providing thrills. Few bands can then ease as successfully into the emotive, striking "Dublin City Sky", a torch song suited for cigarette lighters in the air and hugs between friends.

There remained a surprise in store, with a new track served up as the night’s penultimate tune. A loose, almost funky beat and a vaguely Last Nite guitar riff backed Chatten’s yell that life isn’t always empty, and a message of not looking to the past. It was a reminder that despite some blips here, the future for Fontaines DC is a bright one, even if they did not quite catch fire here.

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