In the end it was third time lucky for Shame’s UK promo tour for their second album Drunk Tank Pink. It was also the time to deflower the new Huddersfield Parish gig venue located upstairs, following their move to new premises. With limited entry, what a special time it was to hold a couple of tickets.
I know I have waged a lot during lockdown, but for the second consecutive time at a gig there were moments where I felt about 86. We had arrived at the Parish early for a bite to eat (totally recommended by the way), when our dining was disturbed by a member of staff who politely told us not to be alarmed but there was going to be some “loud music” for the soundcheck soon. I’m not sure if the guy thought my pacemaker might struggle with the shocking outrage. I explained I had seen Shame 5 times over the past few years, but what a generous and kind spirit.
From the sounds of the soundcheck, the band gave the new venue a fair pounding; they were the only band playing this evening, and I presume there were a fair few things to fettle through with it being a new venue n’all. It paid dividends, as the sound for the gig was totally top notch. The Parish has started its reopening program with a high bar, and I’m looking forward to many a future ear bleeding here.
Shame were simply perfect from the off. While I am a huge fan of their second album Drunk Tank Pink and its underlying story of mental health readjustment and adapting to maturity, it hadn’t hitherto settled in my heart in the same way that the first Shame album Songs of Praise has. Until tonight.
Lead singer Charlie Steen always cuts an immense figure, true here tonight too. I spent a bit of time thinking about Steen’s burning intensity, and I concluded it is a mix of very human, very ordinary, and oft repeated mannerisms (his frantic almost shrugging style of dance, the anxious habit of tossing his mic from one hand to another), and then it’s a strong urging in his face and his eyes as he implores you to understand, to understand his story and most importantly his emotion. Steen is a storyteller bar none, his lyrics are raw and honest, and the audience are completely engaged into his experiences.
Behind Steen is the clown antics of Josh Finerty doing forward rolls while still paying his bass and running around like a demented drug addict. The music is forever thrusting forward with chopping guitar beats and an intense beat. Following Songs of Praise, Shame overall have found a new-found touch of funk, which really came through live. Where you compare the new songs against the old favourites, they also casually hand grenade tossed into the audience (One Rizla, Concrete, Angie, and The Lick amongst them) you can also pick up generally how there is a complexity and deeper feel to these new tunes. That mix of new and old blended perfectly, and it felt that the seat sitting audience were soon trying to spin the chairs on one leg while seated.
Despite the frantic intensity of Shame during the songs themselves, there was also some easy relaxed fun, something I’ve not as readily spotted in my previous Shame gig experiences. Steen easily let his face form into a lazy smile at the end of each song, and he clearly enjoyed the banter about him taking his shirt off (“it was only a matter of time”, and “get your keks off next”, and a banter about whether the band could remember to play their version of Rock Lobster.
In Drunk Tank Pink Steen describes the hard slog of constantly touring, waking up in different hotel rooms, having the constant room service and downstairs restaurant on tap. Here while there is a white-hot burning intensity to the band, it also feels the band are enjoying this tour and seeing the gigging life with some fresh eyes. Long may it continue.
* laughing in the face of professional images