12th January | Rough Trade
Photos by Rowan Allen
The palpable sense of excitement that surrounds shame right now fills much more than the busy performance room of Rough Trade’s Bristol store tonight. With their first full-length, Songs of Praise being released today, you couldn’t ignore social media for all the posts, Tweets and shares the record was receiving. These were – even more impressively – not from advertising either, national newspapers making them front page news and fans far and wide expressing just how they feel about the record, an organic word-of-mouth excitement that doesn’t tend to be seen much in the fickle age of content overload. So when the five-piece take to the stage, the crowd are rightly eager – and so proceeds a show that blows away the cobwebs of lethargic December festivities and cements shame as one of the best guitar bands in Britain today.
Their 45-minute set is an excellent balance of unfiltered animation and frank, unguarded proclamations. Playing ‘Concrete’, ‘One Rizla’ and early favourite, ‘The Lick’ in succinct succession, as they appear on the record, may seem formulaic – but here it’s an absolute salvo. The vulnerable openness of ‘One Rizla’ brings the crowd together with surprising sentiment, before tearing them apart in an overwhelming breakaway for ‘The Lick’, as Charlie Steen braces them with an unconsciously evil delivery of “this is how it starts.” The whole band are an absolute force from the very beginning, guitarist Sean Coyle-Smith and bassist Josh Finerty lucky not to knock one another out as they lunge at each other with guitar heads swaying to the punch. It’s not only exhilarating, it’s influential – the enjoyment and adrenaline you can tell the band take from such shows is positive and almost liberating. It even continues through the tender counterbalance of album closer, ‘Angie’, Steen finding his deepest utterances to wring the very notion of poignancy that weaves within the track.
Shedding any sense of calm with the wonky and deliberate ‘Lampoon’, before closing out with the definitive ‘Gold Hole’, the sense that shame have really delivered not only a searing show, but also a high-quality record really comes to the fore. Songs of Praise is an album of varying emotion, and live, the band can take it and explore its deepest lows and most unshackling highs in the form where they really do deliver.