Eventim Apollo, London – live review

Fontaines DC
Fontaines DC

Fontaines D.C.
Eventim Apollo
26th November 2022

Fontaines D.C. put on a breathtaking show to end their run of three successive sold-out nights at Hammersmith’s Eventim Apollo. Nils van der Linden finds a band with the live performance skills to match the brilliance of their albums.

Selling out three consecutive nights at Hammersmith’s Eventim Apollo is a pretty good hint you’ve made it as a live act. So is having a sea of people in the stalls — sometimes surging, sometimes raging, always moving. But the real sign is an audience that doesn’t just shout back every word; they sing along to melodies with such gusto it almost renders the musicians pointless. The Cure have Play For Today. Iron Maiden have Fear Of The Dark. On the last night of their London residency, Fontaines D.C. have A Lucid Dream and Big Shot.

Both are obvious highlights of a breathtaking show that’s perfectly set up to put the songs in the spotlight.

There’s the lighting: primarily a combination of minimalist LED strips and the letters of “fontaines dc” illuminated up in various combinations. Striking, but not distracting, like the confetti that rains down at the end of the show.

Fontaines DC
Fontaines DC

Fontaines D.C. members Conor Deegan, Tom Coll, and Conor Curley are excellent musicians, epitomised by the way they keep calm and carry on during a technical issue on an extended Roman Holiday. But they aren’t exactly flashy performers. Singer Grian Chatten seems intent on connecting with the crowd with just his intense vocals and brooding presence. Forget about conventional frontman grandstanding or even speaking between songs. Only guitarist Carlos O’Connell appears to have the show-off gene, throwing shapes, waltzing about with a pint, scissor kicking, or (during Boys In The Better Land) summiting the stage-side speakers.

And the string quartet that show up periodically aren’t your typical rock show extravagance. Far from expensive set dressing, a feeble attempt to be taken seriously, or a pointless confection that bloats the music and dilutes its impact, they amplify the drama and full-hearted passion of these songs. With added allegro, A Lucid Dream sounds even more frenetic than before. The stabbing violins on Nabakov, from the astounding current album Skinty Fia, up its threat level. The rich orchestral flourish that rounds out the trancelike In ár gCroíthe go deo only adds to the majesty of a hymn inspired by the story of a politically charged headstone inscription.

It’s on yet another new song, The Couple Across The Way, that the four guest musicians really excel. Replacing the album version’s forlorn accordion accompaniment, they give Chatten’s stark reflections on a relationship’s evolution — delivered head down, hands gripping the microphone tight — room to breathe. The effect is spell-binding and brings even this audience the closest they’ll ever get to silence. (There are still cheers and whistles, but the crowd surfers and shoulder sitters wilfully ignoring the security’s flashlights are momentarily MIA.)

Wunderhorse
Wunderhorse

They’ve been like this all night, from welcoming support act Wunderhorse with proverbial open arms to breaking out into impromptu chants as O’Connell’s guitar tech fixes the issue that momentarily pauses the show. They keep spirits soaring even as the stage momentarily descends into darkness and silence, but their biggest contribution comes during moments like Boys In The Better Land when “If you’re a rock star, porn star, superstar, Doesn’t matter what you are, Get yourself a good car, get out of here” becomes something of a battle cry. Jackie Down The Line (another Skinty Fia standout) is another that’s sung so loudly Chatten could take a break. He doesn’t, giving each line his all as usual.

But tonight’s standout performance, from both Fontaines D.C. and their audience, is Televised Mind. Yes, it’s even bigger than both A Lucid Dream and Big Shot. At first bass and drums rumble, the crowd erupt on cue yet again, and red and blue strobe lights flash like some sort of emergency services cavalcade has pulled into the Apollo. The music evolves into a groove as hypnotic as the lyrics, swelling in volume and fervour until Chatten and the band suddenly pull back, releasing the tension before slowly building it all back up again. By the third time they reach the ever higher instrumental peak, the singer has punched his tambourine, paced in circles as if trapped in an invisible cage, and fired up 5000 people to Kasabian or Prodigy frenzy levels — without saying a single word.

For a band barely three albums into their career, that’s yet another indication of their immense power as a live act.

Fontaines DC
Fontaines DC

You can find Fontaines D.C. on their website as well as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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Words by Nils van der Linden. You can visit his author profile for Louder Than War here. He tweets as @nilsvdlinden and his website is www.nilsvanderlinden.com.

Photos by Naomi Dryden-Smith – Louder Than War  | Facebook  | Twitter  | Instagram  | portfolio

Please note: Use of these images in any form without permission is illegal. If you wish to use/purchase or license any images please contact Naomi Dryden-Smith at naomidrydensmith@gmail.com

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