When the pandemic hit and forced the cancellation of the show, it would have been easy for the London punks to stay home and mope over our collective bad luck. That’s not quite Shame, though. Instead, they played the gig anyway to an empty venue, created an extremely funny short film – a sort of 2021 punk A Hard Day’s Night – out of the experience and gave a timely reminder of what a stunning live band they are.
In a Spinal Tap-worthy opening segment, the band reckon with gatecrashers, painfully awkward meet-and-greets and bottles of WKD backstage while their crew desperately try to hide the fact that no-one’s shown up for their big night. Flooding the venue with smoke and fake crowd noise, they try their hardest to obscure the empty, silent dancefloor from the band.
When the five-piece do emerge on stage, launching straight into fidgety new album highlight ‘Born In Luton’, they cut the figure of a band reinvigorated. Worn down to breaking point from a never-ending tour on the back of their acclaimed debut album ‘Songs Of Praise’, the band’s time off has allowed them to recuperate. Here, they come out of the gate like greyhounds.
This performance, filmed before the lockdown, is bolstered by two new live members; they take the on-stage total to an army-like seven, who run through a handful of ‘Drunk Tank Pink’ highlights with the vicious energy of a band making up for lost time.
Whether it’s on the Talking Heads-like swagger of ‘Nigel Hitter’ or the dark, complex epic ‘Snow Day’ – the latter clearly influenced by the band’s time on tour with Detroit post-punk doomsayers Protomartyr – they play every note with wonderful vigour. Frontman Charlie Steen is on magnetic form even when there are no front rows of crowd to clamber atop of as he is wont to do. The half-hour show is a tantalising taster of what to expect when the band eventually take ‘Drunk Tank Pink’ around the world.
Vaccines permitting, Shame will return to the same venue in November – across two sold-out nights – to do this properly. With the band on this kind of form and in front of a crazed, hungry crowd starved of live music, you bet they’ll raze the place to the ground.