Fontaines D.C. wields raw chaos and passion at House of Blues

Fontaines D.C.

October 6, 2022 at House of Blues

After having to postpone their April show in Boston, Fontaines D.C. came back to town on October 6th for the final show on this leg of their Skinty Fia tour. The Irish band initially had to cancel their spring show at the Paradise Rock Club due to lead singer Grian Chatten’s case of laryngitis. In live recordings of songs like “Nabokov,” Chatten often yells out the lyrics with such raw and untethered energy that a laryngitis diagnosis really should have been no surprise. To the delight of many fans in Boston, Fontaines D.C. and opener Wunderhorse brought all this energy and more onto the stage at House of Blues.

The crowd was a menagerie of vaguely hipster twentysomethings and punk rock-loving middle-aged fans. One older fan remarked that discovering Fontaines D.C. had felt the same as hearing classic groups like the Clash back in the 80s. This old-school nostalgia, paired with the thrill of a fresh sound, had everyone feeling eager.

Wunderhorse, the alias of British musician Jacob Slater, opened with a set that drew from an unusual combination of genres. The band began with the moody, introspective “Poppy,” highlighting Salter’s haunting and beautifully controlled vocals. Later, the familiar guitar riff for “Teal” rang out. A fan at the front rail turned to comment that this was the band’s best song – and he wasn’t wrong. With guitar parts and vocals that echo the angst of the Killers’ cult-classic “Mr. Brightside,” Wunderhorse’s “Teal” was at once angry, regretful, and cathartic. As the band played, scraps of conversation suggested that the audience was having trouble categorizing the music — was it similar to shoegaze? Maybe closer to classic rock? Ultimately, the crowd seemed to conclude that, whatever the genre, Wunderhorse was a welcome surprise. 

Fontaines D.C. then took the stage, throwing red roses out into the audience. The band opted to start the show with “A Lucid Dream” off of their 2020 album, A Hero’s Death. Like a rollercoaster with a stomach-churning drop in the first few seconds, “A Lucid Dream” began with only a few preparatory moments of ambience before glorious chaos ensued. Tom Coll’s snare quickly sped up to lead into the moment Chatten released a vigorous “Shah!” sound, while shoving the mic away from himself. “There’s gonna be a [mosh] pit to this song,” commented one person.

Riding this tidal wave of an entrance, the band then thrust the venue into the tumultuous poetry of “Hurricane Laughter,” off 2019’s Dogrel. Chatten paced back and forth and shook himself out repeatedly while musing and chanting. As if the venue had been taken over by spoken word fanatics, the crowd yelled every word with him. It is difficult to acknowledge Fontaines D.C. without recognizing their artful lyrics, and the audience seemed to appreciate this. In “Chequeless Reckless,” the crowd continued screaming along to each line of the song’s relentless criticism of all things shallow and money-oriented. “An idiot / is someone who lets their education do all of their thinking,” they roared, “…And money is the sandpit of the soul.” The words felt even more blistering when Chatten’s rant was supported by a crowd of hundreds.

Fontaines D.C. cooled things down in between. Songs like “Roman Holiday” had the crowd prove themselves just as willing to sway with their eyes closed as they were to jump up and down. A similar introspective atmosphere was achieved during “I Don’t Belong,” which saw Chatten become unusually still while singing. The dark bassline and persistent guitar parts flooded the room with a palpable sense of emotional unrest. Other morose songs like “Bloomsday” and “How Cold Love Is” were better played live, especially for the chilling harmonies sung by bassist Conor Deegan III. 

Restlessness returned during songs like “Too Real,” which featured a rumbling and anticipatory start before Carlos O’Connell brought out a glass bottle to slide along his guitar strings (until the bottle shattered, that is). This created the song’s dissonant portamento sounds. Popular songs “Jackie Down the Line” and “Boys in the Better Land” were also received with enthusiasm.

Still, the raw energy that Fontaines D.C. is known for was most astonishing during “Nabokov” and “I Love You,” both from Skinty Fia. During “Nabokov,” the instrumentals exuded rage while Chatten’s wailing vocals conveyed pure hurt and unapologetic desperation. As if he could hardly contain himself, Chatten paced and gestured and shook. He was not graceful, and he was not delicate: there could be no better performance. Meanwhile, Conor Curley stood atop a box draped with an Irish flag and fervidly played his guitar with eyes closed and head tilted up into the spotlight. Behind it all, Coll’s percussion was relentless and carried the band through the stormy ebbs and flows of “Nabokov.” 

The band concluded with “I Love You,” which began as a soft but committed promise to Ireland. The entrancing bass part and gentle guitar parts swirled around each other while firm percussion solidified the song. With a passion that pervaded the room, Chatten then took the plunge into the first heartbreaking verse, and the audience readily joined him. “Flowers read like broadsheets / Every young man wants to die / Say it to the man who profits and the bastard walks by,” cried Chatten, reaching out towards the audience with one hand. And still, alongside the heartbreak and disappointment, the core of the song rang clear. Chatten, with the audience backing him up, sang a vow to the band’s home country: “I’ll love you ‘til the grass around my gravestone is deceased.” 

Throughout the concert, the band hardly spoke between tracks, yet their presence was overwhelming. The group seemed to understand that nothing more needed to be said — to them and the audience, it was about the music. After a simple “Thank you very much, Boston,” Fontaines D.C. left the stage.

1 Comment.

  1. Great review- you absolutely captured the essence of the show. It was nice to meet you and chat music. Still impressed you kept old school handwritten notes instead of your phone! Encouraging to see college radio going strong. – “An older fan” 🙂

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