Shame @ Hare and Hounds, 17 April 2018

Outside it’s a chilly Tuesday evening in Kings Heath and Shame frontman Charlie Steen is beckoning those lucky enough to have a place inside the Hare & Hounds to move closer. “We won’t bite, we’re from London” he smirks before announcing that the fact he’s wearing his own band’s t-shirt is “not shameless promotion. I just ran out of clean clothes”.

The genre known as post-punk has been around so long now that its 21st-century practitioners can often sound like they’re just going through the motions, but Shame are a reminder of just how vital post-punk can be. The South London band can sometimes recall the likes of Television Personalities and Gang of Four, as well as newer acts such as Savages and their debut album, has been heralded as one of the best in recent years so there’s a definite sense of anticipation at this sold-out gig. Will that swagger we hear on the album be evident in a live environment? I can confirm it is indeed…. and then some.

Kicking off with the frantic energy of album-opener Dust On Trial they set about proving their worth in no time at all. There’s a certain Gallagher-ness to Steen’s cheeky confidence. At times he even holds his arms behind his back as he spits the lyrics into his microphone. Total Liam! 

Meanwhile, bassist Josh Finerty has that slightly quirky air about him that suggests he’s born to be a rock n roll star. And as the night progresses I begin to get a genuine feeling that I’m witnessing a band destined for much much bigger stages. They already have the songs and the confidence. And on tonight’s performance, they are well on their way to winning over huge crowds.

The framework of their music may often seem familiar, but the energy they bring to it feels new, electrifying their tunes as they bridge the personal and political with wit and fury. “This was written when we were seventeen when we still had hope and we still had youth,” Steen deadpans as he introduces One Rizla. The fact that their ages range from twenty to twenty-one now suggests they’ve come a long way in those few years.

Steen’s charisma is one of the band’s greatest assets, and it’s what carries lyrics such as Friction’s “Do you know the difference between what is right and what is wrong?” Shame also display an impressive amount of range and ambition in their songwriting, in particular, the Cribs-esque Tasteless, with its genius refrain of “I like you better when you’re not around.” They also prove they’re just as skilled at shiny guitar pop as they are ferocious rants like set-closer “Donk.” 

By the fourth song, The Lick, the singer is already shirtless and roaming through the crowd, singing eye-to-eye with the fans. By the second half of the set, his trousers are inching down to his knees revealing his briefs. “Remember this is just entertainment,” he says. “Don’t take it so seriously.”

All five members look like they were made for the role, confidently hammering out the tunes with a knowing glint in their eye like they already know they’re something special. Whether the general public agrees with them remains to be seen, and even though they may proclaim to not be taking this too seriously, I have a feeling they take it very seriously indeed. And it shows. Tonight’s gig was brilliant fun and a sure sign of what’s to come.

Shame return to Birmingham later this year to play The Institute. I’d recommend getting your ticket before the rush.

Reviewer: Steve Gerrard

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