Speed: at times, it can be a sign of a ridiculous new wave that throws everything else into orbit; at others, a rushed albatross that eventually weighs even the buzziest of new acts down – and few have moved faster than Fontaines D.C..
Not so long ago, they took to the stage in a square pub in South London, relatively unknown and slotting into a bill surrounded by new bands. To say then that these sharply-focused lads from Ireland would be headlining (and selling out) massive venues within three years would have garnered more than a few sideways looks and calls to stop drinking and get a taxi home. Yet something special was undeniably happening. Debut album ‘Dogrel’ was a perfectly-timed shot of immediate punk energy and poetic beauty, and by the time ‘A Hero’s Death’ landed, their place at the top was confirmed.
It’s fitting, then, that Fontaines D.C. find themselves at the historic Alexandra Palace. The kind of grand stage where bands affirm their place in the history books, it’s a refreshing wipe of the slate for anything you’d come to expect from a show of such scale.
They move at a blistering pace, surging through a setlist that leans heavily on their debut album. Yes, they have the big guns stowed in their back pocket (‘Chequeless Reckless’, ‘A Hero’s Death’), but their ability to transform Alexandra Palace from a 10,000 capacity room to feeling like a surging night in a backroom pub is something most bands can only dream of.
Delving into measured cuts from their second album, ‘You Said’, ‘I Don’t Belong’ and ‘Living In America’ feel like a classic band from another era distilled into the here and now, something more urgent and raw when compared to their contemporaries.
Truly unique, that’s not just a general throwaway line. The machine-gun run-through of ‘Hurricane Laugher’ (complete with their only grandstand move of the night: inflatable balls bouncing into the crowd and around the room), ‘Big’, ‘Televised Mind’ and ‘Boys In The Better Land’ is nothing short of overwhelming.
Opening their encore with an unreleased new song (possibly titled ‘I Love You’), its New Order feel and snappy almost-pop core feels like another sidestep to the expected. Much like the animated figure of frontman Grian, it shows an evolution in the Fontaines D.C. journey. One that a packed room welcomes with open arms as they wind out the set with an emotional ‘Roy’s Tune’ and ‘Liberty Belle’, the latter drowned out in collective unison.
For such a large room and all the pressures that come with it, tonight feels like a flipping of the script. Fontaines D.C. came tonight to transfix and transform; this is how to turn the biggest moment into a rabid statement of intent.
Speed: maybe it wasn’t about Fontaines D.C. at all; perhaps it was the rest of us, clinging on to an explosive rise that took our accepted norms and threw them into the fire. Let them burn.