LIVE: Shame / Gurr @ The Haunt, Brighton

By Jamie MacMillan

It starts like a faint rumble under your feet, but as Shame front man Charlie Steen repeatedly screams “closer to me”, several feet deep into a fervent Haunt crowd, the room bursts with an intensity that can almost be tasted. Released at the turn of 2018, ‘Songs Of Praise’ announced the South London band as early contenders for album of the year, transferring their well-earned reputation for being one of the most explosive live acts in the country on to a lean, mean post-punk record. Tonight’s show sold out in a flash, and surely only scheduling clashes prevented it from being upgraded and moved down the road to the bigger Concorde 2 venue. Anticipation remained at fever pitch since then, and their arrival on stage was the moment of release.

Support comes from German pop-punk band Gurr, a group that now genuinely seem to live permanently inside a tour bus. Only recently in town supporting The Go! Team, tonight is a much more fitting crowd for the band and with regular duo Laura Lee and Andreya Casablanca now joined by two new live members, it is a much beefier sound. Tracks like ‘#1985’ land really well with a crowd engaged and inebriated enough to fully go along with covers of Gwen Stefani’s ’Hollaback’ and Kim Wilde’s ‘Kids In America’. As ever, Gurr are great fun tonight and show just why they are so in demand live.

Springing from the same South London scene as Goat Girl, HMLTD, Fat White Family and more, Shame are a band who have found themselves at the centre of a media hype storm since the release of ‘Songs Of Praise”. Seemingly unbothered by that, their socio-political anthems have struck a chord in this era of Austerity Britain while also containing the sonic excitement of bands like Parquet Courts and Protomartyr. Tonight, their first headline show in Brighton, was a brutal and energising display of raw power. A brief look back at the crowd shows that the mosh pit during the opening salvoes of ‘Dust On Trial’ and ‘Concrete’ extend nearly all the way through the entire room and there is barely any let up in that all night. The centre of the room is certainly no place for the faint-hearted, though it is good-natured throughout.

As front men go, Charlie Steen is up there with the best. An intimidating presence, he is constantly in the faces of the first few rows screaming and spitting his lyrics – breaking into a big grin whenever the energy levels reach his expectations. Waving his arms like a conductor with a permanent can of Red Stripe on hand, he is a relentless force driving the crowd to new heights of frenzy. At times, he is joined at the front of the stage by guitarists Sean Coyle-Smith and Eddie Green and serial one-man-moshpit bassist Josh Finerty, the four between them building an impenetrable wall of sound. With drummer Charlie Forbes thumping out planet-sized beats behind them, Shame are a force of nature live. But amidst all of the raucousness, there is a cleverness and craft on display too. A new untitled song sounds like Echo & The Bunnymen, with a new fragility in the lyrics (“Just for a day, why don’t you stay… I never felt human before” if not in the vocals, Steen screaming the latter.

The set is raced through at breakneck speed, Steen often having to lean over to catch breath before the next onslaught. ‘Friction’ is terrifying, ‘Angie’ builds to an explosive crescendo that threatens to bring this old venue down before the final ‘Gold Hole’ sends the room into a final frenzy. By now, Finerty is sprinting from side to side of the stage behind his bandmates – finally crashing out at the finale in a mess of legs and wires. Gurr’s Casablanca takes an almighty stage dive, and is lost somewhere in the pit while everywhere you look there is someone losing their mind. Album and live act of the year? Shame may have bagged both.

Jamie MacMillan