Last night Fontaines DC made their second visit to Norwich with a sold out headline slot at the UEA’s Nick Rayns’ LCR. The place was absolutely rammed and there was a full on mosh-pit going on for the most part straight after the band started playing following a mix tape that included many of their influences such as Johnny Cash, the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan before walking on, with much adoration, to The Dubliners’ Black Velvet Band, which already had a portion of the crowd singing along in a moment that reminded me of some classic Pogues gigs in the same venue in the 1980s and 90s.
The gig was unfortunately marred by some poor sound for much of the time though but these Irish poets’ set was nevertheless excellent, particular standouts for me were Boys in the Better Land, Liberty Belle, and a new one which I believe was its first live airing: Living in America (which was possibly the best thing I heard all night, a fantastic song). There’s a clear and obvious Pogues/Shane MacGowan influence to their work as well as the other heavier punk rock band influences but the Pogues were always essentially a poetic punk band too.
Along with support TOY (whom I did not catch much of but enjoyed what I did hear, the LCR is not a space I like to spend a minute longer in than necessary when it’s as uncomfortably full as this but it caused me to miss some of their set, unfortunately), this was a gig all about the music with very little in the way of verbal engagement between songs, the most being Grian’s “This is our last song, we don’t do encores” (there is no need to announce that) at the end but there were occasional waves to people in the crowd. There was an impressive reaction to the music though throughout the set with a heaving mass of bouncing bodies rarely seen these days. Fontaines DC have come a long way in a short time since that support slot with Shame and Sorry at the Waterfront a while back. Onstage, live is where they thrive, just a shame the LCR sound did the vocals so few favours, the biggest gripe of many niggles about this venue. All the more frustating as occasionally the sound was OK but would then become muddy again. I did enjoy the onslaught of powerful post-punk rock though and the new songs sound very promising indeed. There’s an angsty tension and nervous energy onstage with moments that strongly brought Joy Division to mind. With the lack of verbal communication there’s also a bit of nervous tension and inscrutability with the audience never being entirely sure what the band are thinking but judging by the way they gave it their all I think they were digging it as much as the crowd at the front.
A good night, a superb band with strong songs but with the nagging feeling it could have been something so much more special were it not for the disappointing sound which held it back from true greatness, which is more or less how I feel about the album too.
On Wednesday evening I headed to the NAC to see Toyah for the first time in almost 38 years (when I went by coach from Norwich to see her perform at the Ipswich Gaumont). This Norwich date was not entirely the intimate, acoustic set with Q&A session which I’d been expecting, with Toyah, a keyboardist and bassist premiering a more electro format. It may not have been what I expected but it definitely delighted the vast majority of the sellout crowd, many describing it as their best gig in years and whilst I can’t say it was quite in that elevated category for me I did enjoy hearing some of these songs performed live again and many of her anecdotes. Covers of songs such as These Boots are Made for Walkin‘ and Sweet Child O’ Mine were a curious suprise though but you can’t argue with the reaction from an adoring crowd for a real pro who hardly seems to have aged at all and retains her distinctive, powerful voice and incredible energy.
(c) shashamane 2020
Norwich: Music City, UK. A Norwich playlist of well over 48 hours of local music on Spotify: