Who was the last band who got this far this quickly? It is hard to believe what Fontaines D.C. have achieved in just the three years since the release of their debut album ‘Dogrel’ in 2019: chart-topping, festival-headlining, Grammy-nominated artists simply do not emerge this fully formed, this urgent or this ready to assume their role in the history of rock music. Fontaines are still relatively new, and yet they are already firmly established as the ringleaders of an entire generation of literate, furious rock bands. As Nottingham’s Rock City bubbles with the anticipation of their arrival tonight, there is a sense in the air that we’re about to witness a generational band at the top of their game.
With the patient, elegant opening strains of ‘In ár gCroíthe Go Deo’, the Dublin quintet hold us in suspense before finally unleashing the track’s explosive coda. ‘A Hero’s Death’, an emergency manual for those of us prone to existential despair, and ‘Sha Sha Sha’ then see the room erupt as arms and legs clamber over the shoulders of those in front of them; a glorious maelstrom in action. Tracks from ‘Dogrel’ take on a rawer edge tonight, sounding scrappier and sharper than the music they make now. For those in attendance who have followed this band since day one, the connection with these songs runs deep.
There is no singling out of individuals across their 90 minutes on stage: these five musicians operate as one. When the venue’s overhead mirrorball starts swinging during ‘I Don’t Belong’ and ‘Oh Such A Spring’, Rock City swoons along with it – until ‘Big Shot’ shatters the peace and limbs start to flail once more.
Rock City is packed full tonight with knowledgeable Fontaines fans who can recognise their songs from a single opening drum fill. It’s clear that ‘Skinty Fia’, released back in April, is the album that has landed most forcefully for this crowd, with ‘Nabokov’ in particular eliciting heart-shaped eyes from every corner of the room.
Frontman Grian Chatten speaks as infrequently as he can get away with in-between songs, the persona he gives off on record only mystified further in person. He is expressive while performing, but the clues we crave remain obscured. It is as if Fontaines have reimagined a ’90s where Noel Gallagher had read a few more books and chosen a less risk-averse direction as a consequence.
Grown men hug and embrace during ‘A Lucid Dream’ and ‘Jackie Down The Line’ before the final charge of ‘Big’, ‘Boys In The Better Land’ and the imperious ‘I Love You’ bring the house down: an encore for the ages. To paraphrase the band themselves: as long as there are bands like Fontaines D.C. around, life will never be empty.
Fontaines D.C. played:
‘In ár gCroíthe go deo’
‘A Hero’s Death’
‘Sha Sha Sha’
‘I Don’t Belong’
‘Oh Such A Spring’
‘How Cold Love Is’
‘A Lucid Dream’
‘Jackie Down The Line’
‘Boys In The Better Land’
‘I Love You’