Photography: Darren Aston

Shame

Future Yard 31/5/21

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It’s an unusually warm Tuesday evening in Birkenhead and Future Yard is practically sizzling with a strange sense of anticipation. Apprehension, even. After all, for many of us this is the First Gig Back post-lockdown. Tables of two, six-feet apart, masks, no standing up, no dancing, ordering pints on an app. These are all unfamiliar things even for seasoned gig-goers.

But as soon as SHAME fly onto the stage, any apprehension quickly dissipates. Like greyhounds released from the traps, the South London six-piece launch straight into a riotous hour of pure post-punk joy. From the off, frontman Charlie Steen has us completely under his control. He has a certain look in his eyes as if he’s bursting with things to tell us – and we’d better be listening.

“I hope that you’re hearing me” goes the hook of first album favourite Concrete and, well, we certainly are. Steen’s voice carries its power not only through its sheer volume, but through the conviction and clarity of his diction. Every syllable is carefully executed and is accompanied with a corresponding point of the finger, a swing of the mic, a jab of the chin. It almost feels choreographed. It’s utterly captivating.

“They play this 60-capacity room in Birkenhead like it’s Wembley Stadium”

Steen’s moves are no better demonstrated than on set highlight, Nigel Hitter. It is a tight, slick affair that reflects their growth from an angsty first album back in 2018 to the more sophisticated sound of this year’s Drunk Tank Pink. As such, latest single Born In Luton is another standout. Oscillating between a jagged, incessant guitar riff in the verses and a haunting, cinematic chorus, it encapsulates all the intricate complexities that made Drunk Tank Pink so triumphant. Oldies like One Rizla are indeed met like the familiar anthems they are, but it’s their new material that really impresses.

What is perhaps most striking is that, behind all the bravado, Shame are a remarkably humble band. Instead of moping about the irony of playing post-punk to what looks like an exam hall full of wooden desks due to government-enforced rules, they play this 60-capacity room in Birkenhead like it’s Wembley Stadium. They seem genuinely grateful to be here; a gratitude that is undeniably reciprocated by their audience tonight.

 

SHAME Image 2

Before we know it, the soaring Station Wagon brings the set to a spectacular close. At the song’s crescendo, Steen is teetering on the edge of the stage, standing tall, arms outstretched, sweat dripping. It makes for a dramatic concluding tableau that lingers in our minds as we’re thrust out, stunned, back into the early evening sunshine.

The First Gig Back was always going to be loaded with expectation. But tonight, Shame have dispelled any anxieties that might have been felt an hour ago. Instead, we’re left with an overwhelming feeling of optimism. After over a year deprived of live music, there was no better band than Shame – and no better venue than Future Yard – to welcome us back.

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