Fast establishing themselves as a band with a devastating live reputation, shame have been steadily increasing in popularity since they released their debut album Songs Of Praise in January this year. They encapsulate an aggressively angsty form of post-punk who wear their influences proudly on their sleeves, yet gain personality from Charlie Steen’s confrontational yet cool style. This was their first time in Nijmegen, and if Steen was to be believed, perhaps their last.
For this tour they brought Hotel Lux with them, who hark from the same South London scene whose most famous exports are the controversy hunting Fat White Family. In a music scene where standing out as a band of five white men is near impossible, they’ve found a niche by treading the line between artistic statement and shock value. Not something they’d ever admit to, of course, or arguably even be conscious of, but something which the media lap up and report on how dangerous it all is.
As Hotel Lux took to the stage, they looked like they’d come straight from a photoshoot for a reboot of Quadrophenia. For some people this may have been a reason to get excited, but all I could do is imagine them talking about “proper music and proper haircuts”. Thankfully, this was a book that shouldn’t be judged by its cover. Undoubtedly influenced by The Fall, with the Mark E Smith-influenced vocals so key to their sound, they also bring to mind moments of Parquet Courts, Sleaford Mods or King Krule. New single Daddy in particular stood out as a sign of more promising progression, a more fleshed out version of their sound and bodes well for a full length.
The reason the night sold out, however, was for Shame. From the moment they took to the stage to open with the powerful Dust On Trial, frontman Steen was prowling the stage with a charismatic intensity that captivated and slightly intimidated the audience. “Come closer, come on, come closer to the stage” he beckoned before taking a mouthful of beer and spraying it over the audience before he’d even sung a line.
Between songs Steen continued to try and stir up the stereotypically unresponsive Dutch crowd as they seemed unable to shake that Wednesday feeling and let themselves go in the music. As reward, he ruffled the hair of those who made the journey to the front of the stage, and complimented a bearded gentleman’s eyes before launching into Concrete, dancing with an intensity reminiscent of Ian Curtis.
It wasn’t long before the crowd were getting into it, helped by the frenetic energy of bassist Josh Finerty, eventually resulting in a polite circle pit to accompany the sublime One Rizla. “This was the first song we ever wrote” confessed Steen before getting stuck into their most popular song to date, which the crowd lapped up.
Before long his top was off and the stage dives had begun. If he wasn’t standing right at the front of the stage in a Jesus Christ pose, he was taking the opportunity to explore different parts of the stage to make eye contact with individuals at the sides to break that fourth wall. As he talked through the vocal line of The Lick in this prowl-like state, it created a slightly creepy vibe that was as welcoming as it was unsettling.
With only one album to their name, they worked their way through pretty much every song they have. After the rest of the band left the stage, Steen remained, seemingly judging the reaction of the audience in a genuine manner as opposed to the usual autopilot associated with the encore ritual. It wasn’t long before the band returned to power their way through Donk to close the night out. As the song continued before its natural ending to a cacophony of noise, Finerty flew from one side of the stage to the other, doing barrel rolls, backward rolls and behind-head playing while barely missing a note.
Some bands gain a great reputation for their live musicianship, some with their between-song conversation, but with some it’s all about the energy and intensity in what they do creating a night to remember. Shame fit firmly in the latter and frankly, it’s the most satisfying option of the lot. If that’s all there was to them, it’d probably relegate them to being one of those bands that are “fun at festivals”, but as their debut album proves, they’ve got the songs to match. The band may have seemed slightly disappointed with the extent of the crowd reaction, saying this was the first and probably last time they’d come to Nijmegen, but I imagine most of those in attendance will hope that’s not true.
Images by Abi Raymaker and taken from the band’s show at South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas last month. Tonight and tomorrow, the band will perform sold-out shows in Amsterdam and Rotterdam.