By Evie Shields (she/her)
My favourite Irish post-punk powerhouse, Fontaines D.C. took to the stage of Glasgow’s beloved O2 Academy on 17 and 18 November. I had the pleasure of being there the first night, where they jumped headfirst into ‘Big’, a favourite from their Mercury-nominated 2019 album Dogrel. The Dublin hailed five-piece set the venue alight with their guitar fuelled poetry.
Despite everyone in the packed venue screaming, and jumping into one another, there was one common viewpoint: Grian Chatten. The crowd chanted his name and you would think he was a God. Inarguably one of the best frontmen of this generation, this is a band that knows how to get a crowd going. Throughout the entire set, there was hardly a minute to breathe. Their fourth song ‘Skinty Fia’, the title track of their third album, displayed Chatten at his magnetic best – the entire band were mesmerising. Conor Deegan drives ‘Skinty Fia’ on his bass guitar as if his life depended on that one song. Chatten’s voice can be heard much lower here, and the growth in maturity in comparison to their first two albums shone clear.
The screams the band received were truly on level with those typically reserved for the world’s biggest stars. Not only do the crowd sing back the lyrics, which would already be enough of an ego boost, but Fontaines D.C. also had thousands full of people relaying back their melodies and guitar riffs played by Conor Curley and Carlos O’Connell. If nothing else was clear, the loyalty these fans have for the band certainly was. The atmosphere was electric with every song.
Chatten uses his mic as an accessory, holding on for dear life as though it might run off. His stage presence is effortless, with a hint of Ian Curtis laced in his aura. He reaches his hand out to the crowd, bringing them closer. The adoring crowd’s energy is brought down with ‘You Said’ and ‘I Don’t Belong’, two enchanting tracks from their 2020 release A Hero’s Death. Backing Chatten’s every word, the place felt haunted. It’s rare to see such a band who aren’t necessarily world-famous adored as much as Fontaines D.C.
My personal favourite Fontaines song is ‘Roy’s Tune’, a track they tend to play sparingly. As my friend and I got to the queue, I told her how desperately I wanted to hear it, even jokingly tweeting the band (as if that would do anything). Although, when fan favourite, ‘A Lucid Dream’ ended, they began the next song – Roy’s Tune! I didn’t even realise until Grian started singing that I was hearing my favourite song – I think I almost went into shock. Seeing your favourite bands, hearing them play your favourite songs – is one of life’s greatest feelings.
The energy skyrocketed as the pre-encore closed with personal favourites, ‘Roman Holiday’ and ‘Too Real’ – Fontaines D.C. are a band like no other.
Immediately after I left the venue – I decided I had to see them again. I talked a friend into it, and we bought tickets for their show in Edinburgh. On Monday 28 November, I saw the band take to the stage in Edinburgh’s O2 Academy. As they approached the stage, the crowd sweating, rushing as close to the front as possible – they dived into ‘Nabokov’.
Occupying the centre of the barrier, I was right in front of Grian, and seeing how he controls a crowd up close was like witnessing magic. Chatten’s drawling ‘I did you a favour, I bled myself dry,’ fills the room – everyone shoving to get to the front, losing themselves with their favourite band. ‘Nabokov’ lives in the Skinty Fia world. As they play songs from this album, their musical evolution shines so unbelievably bright. A band that only seems to be getting bigger. Bigger, I think – than anyone could’ve imagined.
Straight into ‘A Lucid Dream’, Tom Coll’s drums are met with chanting fans, repeating the guitarist’s melodies back to the band. Followed with strong songs like ‘Skinty Fia’, ‘Oh Such A Spring’ and ‘How Cold Love Is’; it’s clear that this tour is Fontaines D.C. showing their potential. It feels that these sets couldn’t possibly be topped – how much higher, better, could it possibly get? Take that thought and times it by ten. Each show had a three-song encore, Glasgow and Edinburgh having different first songs – but every show ended with the same two, the first of which being ‘Boys In the Better Land’ – a beloved track from 2019’s Dogrel. The crowd screamed along: ‘if you’re a rockstar, porn star, superstar, doesn’t matter what you are – get yourself a good car, get out of here!’
The grand, explosive finale is Skinty Fia’s ‘I Love You’. Like a lot of Fontaines’ songs, this is a song about Ireland. Dark and beautiful, it explodes halfway through and red and yellow confetti cascades down onto the stage, the audience, everywhere. A keepsake for many. Chatten’s screams of ‘I loved you like a penny loves the pocket of a priest, and I’ll love you ‘til the grass around my gravestone is deceased,’ met the faces of many fans with tear-stained cheeks.
There is no doubt in my mind that Fontaines D.C. hasn’t yet reached the top of their power. They have so much we haven’t even seen a glimpse of. If you can, go to a Fontaines D.C. show – you won’t regret it.