It’s been quite a year for Shame. After the success of their debut album Songs Of Praise, which recently received the accolade of Rough Trade’s Album of The Year, they’ve propelled themselves from bathing the country’s smallest venues in sweat, to playing the main stage at festivals such as Reading and Leeds. Embarking on their biggest headline tour to date, the band make a stop at Manchester O2 Ritz, with Sorry and HMLTD in tow.
Looking like a circus that fell in and out of a bondage shop, HMLTD are everything but subtle. They’ve come a long way since the gracing the basements of the country’s smallest venues and after seeing them at Liverpool’s now deceased venue The Magnet only a year ago, I didn’t feel like that experience could be topped. I was wrong. Their eclectic mix of everything from the grandeur of new-wave, the nihilistic spirit of punk, and the impounding influence of techno shouldn’t work so well, but by god it does. A few glances around the venue confirm that the motley circus have invaded the hearts of a lot of Shame fans, as it now looks more like a rave than a gig. Frontman Henry Spychalski manoeuvres round the stage possessed with the spirit of a young Iggy Pop who’d raided the wardrobe of both new-wave and noughties pop artists of the past. Despite previous doubts about their latest single ‘Flex’, the sensual high-energy live delivery of the track over hip-hop beats has now secured it a place in my playlist.
It’s a tough feat for Shame to keep the contagious euphoria in the room alive after that set with their gravelly post-adolescent punk. They’re literally under the spotlight. Blinded by the lights, the lads stride onto the stage, with frontman Charlie Steen aptly wearing a pair of futuristic black sunglasses paired with freshly dyed blonde hair looking like the frontman from Smash Mouth tried for a part in the Matrix.
Kicking off with ‘Dust On Trial’, limbs are already flailing as Steen broods “will you walk this path with me?”, which the crowd are definitely up for following tonight. Humbly thanking the crowd for their support over the past year, they rip into their very first single ‘One Rizla’ in front of the 1500-capacity O2 Ritz – it’s what ‘Seven Nation Army’ is to The White Stripes. It seems like there’s a magnet propelled on Steen towards the crowd, as he cannot resist the temptation to be lofted by sweaty palms, over the sweet scent of beer and sweat.
The creeping baseline, propels Steen into ‘The Lick’, which reads like a rousing manifesto, as tales of trips to the gynaecologist and analysis of modern music distribution are spoken in a deadpan manner similar to Mark E. Smith. It particularly highlights the one thing that really sets Shame apart from their peers: their ability to write witty, self-effacing analysis of this modern social climate.
The mood takes a more mellow turn, as does the tempo, with the brooding and melancholic ‘Angie’. It’s reflected in the crowd by swaying bodies and supportive hand-claps in the build up to the chorus, proving the crowd are not all just about raucous body movements and flinging overpriced pints. The band finish their assault of a set with ‘Gold Hole’ – you can probably guess from its euphemism of a title what it’s about. Striding towards the barrier with confidence, Sheen lets the fans add their own contributions, as they shriek “shake me up” into the mic.
For the encore they bring out the ferocious ‘Concrete’, which is a massively effective closer. Steen’s yells of ‘no more questions” rouse the most anarchic mayhem of the night, fading out with “I hope that you’re hearing me”, it summarises Shame’s whole game. They’re not trying to create a political manifesto; they’re giving you something to shout about, a chorus to be part of.