Academy, Manchester, 6/10/2021
published: 12 /
Amanda J Window watches and photographs chart scaling Dublin quintet Fontaines DC plug their wares in a much delayed, highly raucous, sold-out show at Manchester Academy
I first heard Fontaines DC on BBC 6 Music, one bleak morning six weeks into lockdown. I knew from that instant that this band was definitely on my bucket list once life got back to normal. Each morning as we heard “Life ain’t always empty” from ‘A Hero’s Death’ it was as if Grian Chatten’s poetic lyrics were urging us all to keep going.
The quintet band formed in 2017 and named themselves after the character of Johnny Fontaine in mafia classic 'The Godfather'. The DC (Dublin City) was added later as not to be confused with a Los Angeles band of the same name.
All the best bands arrive late on stage with the current crew appearance a meagre ten minutes overdue. The night kicked off with ‘A Lucid Dream’ which was very fitting considering that's how going to the gig felt. With so long without live music and the bands original tour being postponed for five long months, it was hard to believe I was actually stood in the Academy and watching a band play again.
The first chords of ‘Sha Sha Sha’ were played, and the crowd livened up, a track from their 2019 LP ‘Dogrel’ and it was certainly an audience favourite. ‘Chequeless Reckless’ up next featured on the flipside of 2018 double A side ‘Boys In The Better Land’.
Fontaines DC are far more poetic than the average band’s lyrics. Think John Cooper Clark/ Trampolene with Gratten having the cockiness of Liam Gallagher mixed with the manic edge of Ian Curtis. The latter combination was evident in ‘Televised Mind’ and as expected, the audience decided to go a little crazy with a hail of plastic two-pint glasses flying through the air.
The half sung, half spoken ‘I Don't Belong’, follows, the chorus of “I don't belong to anyone / I don't belong to anyone” reflected in the image on Chatten's black T-Shirt with Outkast scrawled across the front. Another poetic cut ‘Living in America’ blasts out accompanied by thrashing guitars. ‘Too Real’ is accompanied by giant white balloons like huge eyeballs which enter the Academy and are batted around by the audience as the band play on. The balloons are a reference back to the ‘ping-pong’ eyeballs featured in the track’s video blown up to giant size. Amidst the ear-piercing guitars, the pitch is lowered so Chatten can bellow out the chorus lyric “Is it too real for ya? / Is it too real for ya?”
The frontman’s accent cuts through in ‘Big’, as he sings “My childhood was small / But I'm going to be big”. And he certainly is big, he’s come a long way since he used to sell upmarket sunglasses for a living.
When the group’s biggest hit to date, ‘Boys In The Better Land’ is finally performed you can see how the band have evolved in such a short space of time. A brief encore and the set closes with the aforementioned ‘A Hero's Death’. The very song that emerged while the world locked down and the title of their second album, released when live music was fighting to survive. A track that expertly mixes poetry and music with the lyrics explained by Chatten “They are the principals of self-happiness that can often hang by a thread.”
And what a come-back gig it was. Ticked off my bucket list but a band I can’t wait to see again. That might come sooner than we think as earlier this year bassist Conor Deegan revealed that they are already working on their third album. I sincerely hope so!
Photos by Amanda J Window
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