Romantic punks with Dublin in their DNA work up a sweat in Galway. Did they unite the Tribes? Julia Mason reports.
Who: Fontaines DC with Wunderhorse
Where: Leisureland, Galway
When: December 3 2022
Fontaines D.C. Irish tour saw them follow up three triumphant nights at Vicar Street in Dublin with the unlikely venue of the leisure centre Leisureland in Galway. Never before have I walked into a venue and been hit with the smell of chlorine or wondered where the basketball hoops had been stacked away.
Wunderhorse opened as they have for the whole of this UK and Ireland tour. With their debut album Cub receiving rave reviews, the four-piece have been collecting fans on this tour. In fact walking out onstage a few times the band have received a rousing welcome from the crowd, and they have been slightly taken aback, the delight on their faces showing with the recognition from the crowd. Highlights include Teal, Leader of the Pack and Girl Behind the Glass. They play a new song and with love and thanks their time is up all too soon. With a support slot early next year opening for Pixies in Europe followed by their own headline tour 2023 is looking good for Wunderhorse. After the emotion and passion of three nights at Vicar Street, I must admit there was a surreal element to this gig for Fontaines D.C. in this venue. However all credit has to go to the band. They have not toured Ireland for 3 years due to the pandemic and the capacity of this venue is just 1200. There was a buzz to be seeing them in such a small venue. The pre-set music included The Cures Friday I'm In Love - well thought out as The Cure are also touring Ireland at the moment. With Teenage Kicks, Blur's Out of Time and Gilla Band's Why They Hide their Bodies Under my Garage, it was Petula Clarke's Downtown that was the walk-on music.
And then Fontaines D.C. were in front of us. The first song was A Hero's Death with its extraordinary lyrics, a list if you will of sage advice. For some reason the opening line of "Don't get stuck in the past" has particularly resonated recently. How can lead singer Grian Chatten write with such eloquence: "You only get one life you better make it stick ... cos we're all in the running for A Hero's Death". This is followed by Lucid Dream and then the haunting In ár gCroíthe go deo. Grian is not a talker onstage as is his prerogative. And when the music is this good seriously who cares. Sha Sha Sha, Television Screens and Skinty Fia took the energy levels up - and point of note this is one track from each of the three albums. A quieter section followed with Oh Such A Spring including its emotional guitar riff, firm crowd favourite I Don't Belong and the expansive vibe of Big Shot.
The band have been changing their set for during this tour. No two consecutive nights are the same. With three albums released they now have a body of work which leads to inevitable disappointment from fans who do not hear their favourite track. I took the opportunity to walk around the venue for this gig, rather than hugging the barrier as usual and seeing the reaction from the mass of people to the music produced is breath-taking. Much loved tracks from the debut album Dogrel are still played. Big packs one heck of a punch with its opening line "Dublin in the rain is mine, a pregnant city with a Catholic mind" - thought-provoking but also thrilling with the sonic landscape, a burst of passion which is over all too quick. Televised Mind' follows but one of the highlights for the crowds on this tour has been Jackie Down the Line. The response it receives from the crowd is rapturous as the opening bars begin. Roman Holiday and Nabokov from current album Skinty Fia are followed by the final song Too Real. The latter was the song that ignited the crowd on the Dogrel tour but those days are long gone and indeed there are plenty of other tracks now for the moshpit to throw themselves around to. Fontaines D.C. didn't used to do encores but with success have had to succumb to the inevitable. It's interesting that two of the three songs closing out tonight are from Dogrel. Liberty Belle and Boys In the Better Land are fast, furious, fun songs. The pandemic gave Fontaines D.C. an enforced break and their appreciation for the fans is obvious, it does not have to be said out loud by Grian, the proof is in the performance. The one consistent factor on this tour is the last song I Love You, one of the songs of 2022. A forthright, outspoken political song about the failures of Irish politicians and the difficult relationship the Irish have with home when they move away. Beginning slowly it builds and grows as it progresses. The passion and emotion is difficult to put into words, such is its power. Sadly for Galway there was no confetti in the venue but no-one was going complaining after this performance. It's been a massive year for Fontaines D.C. with a number one album, attention grabbing sets at both Glastonbury and Reading/Leeds festivals, tours of the States and Europe as well as Ireland and the UK. Finishing this run in Belfast it will be time for rest and preparation for 2023. Much delayed gigs in Australia and New Zealand will be early next year followed by an extensive tour of the US supporting the Artic Monkeys in the summer. Surely that will take them to the next level - but for now those of us who were at Leisureland in Galway have memories that we will cherish for a long time.
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