Live review - Fontaines DC at Glasgow Barrowlands
The UK tour rolled into Glasgow for a much anticipated two night stay. Julia Mason was there for both.
19th and 20th October
There had been a lot of build-up for Fontaines D.C.'s two nights at Glasgow's iconic Barrowlands. It is noted for being one of the best venues in the country and this music obsessed city rarely disappoints in showing its love for bands it adores. Fontaines D.C. have climbed through the city’s venues playing both King Tuts and SWG3 in 2019 so they have earned their place on this special stage.
Celtic were playing at home in the Europa League that afternoon, and with the ground being close to the venue it added an extra spice to the atmosphere outside the venue, especially as they won. We arrived early to be slightly disappointed we weren’t first in the queue, but when it turned out the only two people in front of us were staff, we were overjoyed!
Our efforts were rewarded when we began chatting to the two people behind us. It turned out Mark and Linda had travelled from Amsterdam with a Lou Reed t-shirt from his last ever gig in Amsterdam 9 years ago. They had gifted it to Grian and hoped he would wear it on the night.
Panic stations as the doors open. Scotland had introduced new restrictions just that week so it was a little chaotic having to have all the QRs checked and the tickets which were also on mobiles. But finally we were in and to be honest seeing an empty Barrowlands was emotional. Straight to the barrier and the venue slowly started to fill when The Altered Hours came on as support. They have provided support for the whole tour and have been a wonderful addition to the gigs.
The excitement reaches fever pitch as the main event gets closer. With a capacity of 1,900, by the time the lights go down there is pure electricity in the room. The Pogues Boys From The County Hell is played just to add to the buzz.
And then they are onstage, with Grian in yet another track suit which has been the source of
much amusement and comment on this tour. Naturally the opening track is A Hero’s Death. This is the much delayed tour for the album so it's only fitting the set opens with the title track. The words in this song are like a personal mantra for life and have come to mean so much particularly in these strangest of times.
“Life ain’t always empty”
Grian unzips his tracksuit top, and there is the Lou Reed t-shirt for everyone to see. Mark and Linda are beside us at the barrier and explode with joy! Both the Barrowlands gigs are being filmed so this tee-shirt is going to be seen by a much wider audience at some point in the future.
The set is a mixture of both Dogrel and A Hero’s Death. The energy fuelled A Lucid Dream, Sha Sha Sha and Chequeless Wreckless are followed with a shift down in tempo for I Don’t Belong and The Lotts.
Living in America from A Hero’s Death edges up the pace until we hit the Dogrel trifecta of Hurricane Laughter, Too Real and Big. Truly it is insane; how can music generate such emotional power and electricity? Barrowlands erupts with crowd-surfing beautifully managed by experienced security staff. No aggression on either side and the whole place is jumping. The lighting rig is phenomenal and adds the spectacle of it all.
The night of this first gig is Tom’s birthday and he is grinning from ear to ear for most of the set. Pre-Covid Carlos was the roamer who had to get into the crowd or climb the speakers but at the moment it is Grian who commands the stage. He is egging the crowd on and they oblige by increasing the volume. The clambering to get to the front is intense.
The set rounds off with Televised Mind and Boys In The Better Land – and it lifts the crowd to bay for more. This band did not originally do encores but now are much more intent on working with the crowd to give them a great night, delivering the songs that the fans want to hear and providing extras. On the first night we get You Said from A Hero's Death and the final song Liberty Belle, which has settled into the closing track on this tour.
And then it was over, in a blink of an eye it was done. It felt like 5 minutes, of course the sign of a good night when it flies by and you just don’t want it to end.
The second night at Barrowlands delivered an equally explosive set to an equally explosive audience. These two gigs sold out as soon as they were announced and Fontaines D.C. responded with performances to make those attending love them even more. The only change to the setlist was a rendition of Roy’s Tune instead of You Said in the encore. The former is an emotional song full of glorious textures that gets to the very core of your being. To hear it live is astonishing and breath-taking.
It is only afterwards that I realised that Grian said even less than usual from the stage but that is not to say he did not acknowledge the crowd. The whole band raised a glass to the audience over the course of these two gigs, and even seemed to linger leaving the stage as if they wanted to soak it all up. You could see the audience reaction meant the world to them. This is a band at the top of their game. They commanded the Barrowlands stage both nights and had no fear; why should they when they can deliver their songs with a performance full of talent, attitude and confidence?
So is it the SECC next time in Glasgow? Let's hope not. Going on these performances Fontaines D.C. have earned the right to come back and grace the Barrowlands stage again. With the third album all recorded we can only keep our fingers-crossed that that will happen.