Live Review: Fontaines DC @ 9:30 Club — 4/21/22

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Fontaines DC amazes at the 9:30 Club on April 21, 2022. (Photo by David LaMason)

You can almost feel the pull, like the power of a 10,000-ton train, moving the very Irish band Fontaines DC from the smaller clubs of just a handful of years ago to selling out big venues like the 9:30 Club Thursday night. And to top it off, the eve of the release of the quintet’s third full-length LP, Skinty Fia, saw the band not only selling out the 9:30 Club but also venues throughout the United States.

This was one of the most anticipated returns to the DC area after postponements and cancellations due to Covid-19, and the quintet seemed to feel that anticipation as they took the stage. The band of course includes singer Grian Chatten, guitarists Carlos O’Connell and Conor Curley, bass player Conor Deegan, and drummer Tom Coll. In fact, this felt like a looser but oddly enough more focused band at 9:30 Club on April 21.

Having met in college just a handful of years ago, Fontaines DC has gone on to two previous highly acclaimed LPs — Dongrel and A Hero’s Death — but have been growing their sound exponentially since. Skinty Fia, roughly translated as “damnation of the deer,” is complex, touching on matters of national and cultural identity and even that feeling of being a stranger in a strange land on songs like “The Couple Across The Way.” It’s a ride through and through.

Stream Skinty Fia by Fontaines DC on Spotify:

Most of these new songs had been unheard by the capacity crowd back at the 9:30 Club, but you’d be hard pressed to see that as they cheered on throughout the night. As Fontaines DC took the stage there was no slow burn. The band came out swinging — quite literally — with Grian making over the barrier and into the crowd before going back to the stage. His mic stand a fulcrum maintaining balance as he swung around the stage. That momentum carried forth into “Sha Sha Sha” as the crowd chanted along.

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And it was a testament to the power of the new songs to hear the crowd sing all the words to the LP’s first single, “Jackie Down the Line.” If you were to look in the dictionary for the meaning of stage presence, you’d surely find Grian Chattan’s face staring back as he motioned toward the audience and they ate it up! In fact, even the deceptively slower numbers, “I Love You” in particular had a drive that pulled you in.

Sitting down at the edge of the stage for a moment, the band started on “Too Real,” Grian seemed to commune with the audience before jumping up, worked into a frenzy as Carlos’s glass bottle slide slashed back and forth. It was amazing how the five of them didn’t collapse in exhaustion as they went from one banger to the next.

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Watching a show like the one Fontaines DC was putting on made me realize at that moment what it was to be part of something — experiencing this feeling together in a roomful of like-minded strangers and friends, new and old. It was, as a friend mentioned before things kicked off, like being in church. Like in their song, “A Hero’s Death,” played during the encore, “Life ain’t always empty… look forward to a brighter future.” A sentiment that could bring a tear to the most jaded heart.

Watch the official music video for “Jackie Down The Line” by Fontaines DC on YouTube:

It was an incredible night, in an incredible place, with an incredible band. You really couldn’t have asked for anything more. Fontaines DC continues their tour through North America, and this is one not to miss.

Setlist:
A Lucid Dream
Sha Sha Sha
Jackie Down the Line
I Don’t Belong
You Said
Roman Holiday
Chequeless Reckless
Televised Mind
I Love You
Too Real
Roy’s Tune
Skinty Fia
Big
Boys in the Better Land

Encore:
A Hero’s Death
Hurricane Laughter
Nabokov

Here are some more photos of Fontaines DC performing at the 9:30 Club Thursday, April 21, 2022. All photos copyright and courtesy of David LaMason.

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