You’re placed in the middle of the iconic Brixton Academy. The room is dark, and post-punk icons Fontaines D.C. are on the stage. You feel alone in the audience - like they are there for you only, even though hundreds of invisible others are also gathered to watch the Dublin-bred band perform their set. After playing a sell-out show at the venue as recently as November 2019, the group have made their triumphant return, this time in complete solitude, with only an online audience watching. There is no applause, none of the usual screaming yelps that come with the beginning of a gig. And yet, as the band explode into their fiery opener ‘A Lucid Dream’, there comes a familiar kick of life, a swell of energy that tells you the night has begun.
The group’s regular gigs are notorious for there intensity, and despite the lack of the crowd spurring them on, the five-piece still manage to kick up their usual frantic energy. During ‘Televised Mind’ the band become electric, bopping along to the tracks, while supplying turbulent walls of thrashing guitars and throbbing basslines. What’s more, the uncontrollable atmosphere is made all the more enveloping through the close-up camera the circles the band as they play. Through the intimate shots, the audience become privy to the more subtle details of the group’s performance, that may have been missed when watching from the usual hysteria of a Fontaines DC crowd. From close ups of Tom Coll excitable demeanour as he pummels out the commanding drum patterns of ‘Television Screens’, to Grian Chatten’s comical toss of the tambourine after ‘I Don’t Belong’, these pockets of detail provide a new level of immersion, that could easily be compared to the experience of a live performance.
While the riotous energy of the bands livelier tracks is supplied in plenty, the true highlight of the night comes from the group’s softer records, where the lack of distractions allows for a newfound depth to emerge. Amidst the silence, the minimalistic backing to Coll’s brooding vocals on ‘You Said’ seem to haunt the venue, providing an additional layer of eerie ambiance. The groups rendition of ‘Oh Such A Spring’ is also drenched with an unexpected level of emotion. When performed to an empty audience, lyrics such as ‘And I wished I could go back to spring again’ evoke a bittersweet longing to return to live music, creating a new level of sincerity to the already honest record. The pensive tracks make for a moment of reflection in the bands set, however, the group soon pick the energy of the night back up, following with the fiery ‘Hurricane Laughter.’ The rumbling bass and boisterous drums of the track’s intro feel truly explosive after the softer numbers that came before, calling the audience to snap back into action, as they head into the final half of the evening.
To wrap up the night, the band make sure that their last few tracks are a true celebration, taking the hectic atmosphere to new heights. In stompers such ‘Big’ and ‘Liberty Belle’ Chatten parades viciously around the stage as he sings, with the rest of the groups static dancing turning into frenzied flailing of enjoyment. However, this enthusiasm does not damper their musicianship, with bassist Conor Deegan III, and the two guitarists of the group Carlos O'Connell and Conor Curley providing each track’s invocating hooks and power bars with ease. As the last number rolls around, the group take a minute to speak candidly to the online crowd, thanking them for tuning in, and “…not telling us to go fuck ourselves,”, before delving into the dynamic ‘I Was Not Born’. With its pummelling guitars melodies, and defiant lyrics, the final anthem is played with an unshakeable sense of optimism. Worries, questions, or thoughts of the future are unreachable. All that remains is the performance, and the passion shared between band and audience. While the crowd could not be there with them, through their set Fontaines D.C. manage to conjure a sense of unity through the sheer enjoyment of music, and offer something that while different from the regular gig experience, is just as exciting.