Review by Lydia Fitzer with Photography by Wayne Fox

I have a lot of feelings about this gig, so this review might get intense. If so, it will only be an accurate reflection of the show itself. As always, I’ll try to make you feel as though you were there, but I don’t know whether I’ll be able to do justice to the savagery and thrill of the evening. Bear with me and I’ll try my best!

Shame

Gurr were the support act, comprising of Andreya (lead vocals and guitar) and Laura Lee (vocals and guitar). They claim to bring garage from Berlin. What they actually give is the sound of vibrance. Their music is comprised of simple clashy drums, bubbly guitar and jaunty high-pitched vocals. The most important ingredient is the fizzy personality which cannot be manufactured. Gurr will leave you spinning. Every note is like a bubble made of light.

They crept into their first number, ‘Walnuss’, without warning. It pulled the attention of the crowd. ‘Walnuss’ is the only one of their songs to be entirely in German, although you could listen to the English version (‘Walnuts’) if you wanted. Personally I prefer it in German – I find it more lyrical. Their sound makes you feel like it’s 1984, and as though life has never been better.

They may have sneaked into their set during the first moments, but they crashed into every second from that point forth. They performed with an extended band (Sally on bass and Brandon Walsh on drums). Sally and Walsh, while obviously talented, played discreetly in the shadows while the gurrls maximised the good light. They shimmied and leapt across the stage, dropping to the ground and catapulting into the air. Gurr hadn’t previously been known to most of the crowd before the show, but they’ll certainly be remembered afterwards. Within the first few seconds every member of the audience was grinning. Within the first minute they were counting along with Gurr in German as if this was the only act they wanted to see.

Gurr

The counting led them into ‘Computer Love’ with a squeal, and never a quirkier song will you witness. It was really clear how much Laura and Andreya benefit from each other’s presence. They constantly look to one another even mid-bounce, rising to giant stature through mutual appreciation.

‘Walnuss’ and ‘Computer Love’ are both from their 2016 album ‘In My Head’, as are all their most popular songs. With that said, I was delighted to hear ‘Don’t Go To School’, from their 2015 record ‘Furry Dream’, take pride of place early in the set. ‘Don’t Go To School’ has a gorgeous gritty feel, and is one of my favourites. I can’t help but feel that ‘Furry Dreams’ might only be less popular because of its inferior recording quality, as the songs are every bit as good as their more recent work.

A definite highlight of the set was when Gurr bounced into a chorus of Gwen Stefani’s ‘Hollaback Girl’ – it certainly had comic effect! They chanted together to a drum beat almost innocently. They started to channel aggression; “Sh*t is bananas, B-A-N-A-N-A-S’! Suddenly they launched to the sky. ‘Rollerskate’ set in and the punk crashed down, shattering across the ground.

The pair were gloriously uninhibited. There was a real personal touch to their chat with the crowd. Laura apologised for being squeaky (you couldn’t tell!) as they’d all been unwell on the tour and she was the last one to get sick. Andreya joked about going to the pharmacy and asking for a “cough stopper” – the pharmacist’s reaction got a few giggles. After a fiddle with their instruments, they strummed into their most popular song, ‘Moby Dick’. The extended band initially didn’t play, so we were left with soft guitars and voices until the instrumental. The performance would have benefited from a cleaner guitar line, although this has been pointed out in the past. It was still entrancing, although it could have been more effective.

GurrGurr

They closed their (sadly all too short) set with ‘Klartraum’, and I can think of no song which would have been a more ideal finish. Of all their tracks, ‘Klartraum’ is the one with the most attitude. They delivered it with clashing Titan-like power. Andreya screamed “I been so bad”, and with every wail dared you to be as wicked as her. The word “klartraum” translates as “lucid dream”, and the song repeatedly uses the phrase of the album title ‘In My Head’. The entire album is their dream, and Gurr invites you to be part of it– raw, rebellious, and totally real.

What could they possibly do for a mental conclusion? Let me tell you. Andreya broke free from her guitar, threw herself across the stage, and fired down into the crowd (grabbing my shoulder to propel her). She tore a one-woman mosh pit through the audience, wreaking havoc. Beaming, she frolicked back to the stage and ended the song crouched holding Laura’s leg, the ultimate Punk Smeagol of Berlin.

While Shame’s bassist (Josh Finerty) was getting ready for their set, I noticed how overwhelmingly full the venue had become. There were no exits – only a wall of bodies and the reek of expectation. Cheers as the rest of the band clambered onto the stage. Vocalist Charlie Steen opened with signature sarcasm; “We write country western music and we’re on a journey to spread the word about Jesus!”

Shame

Shame

Shame exploded into the brain with ‘Dust on Trial’. Far from country western, Shame gives the most enigmatic brand of post-punk. ‘Dust on Trial’ is a perfect introduction to their style. Its sexy build-up works tension into the room. It makes the most of Steen’s darkly suggestive vocal style, and touches the blood in your chest. The best way to describe Shame’s sound is a black energy that you can feel moving beside you as if it were a living being.

The next song was ‘Concrete’. Steen started performing to the fullest, repeatedly coming to the front of the stage to thrash around. Precariously close to falling, he’d crouch down and let his eyes bore through your skull. It wasn’t all doom though – he’d reach out in jest (the cheeky f*cker even tried to rob my pen!). This style took a bit of getting used to, but it was certainly effective. The crowd were supercharged, and screamed with Steen – “I hope that you’re hearing me, I hope that you’re hearing me!”

Shame

Shame

They swung straight into ‘One Rizla’. Steen sang how he’s “not much to look at” while creating a visual spectacle. He teetered on the edge of the stage like a punk tightrope walker, taking off his shirt and throwing beer over the crowd. Fair warning to ya’ll; if you see Shame live, there WILL be a splash zone. The whole band gave a major performance, particularly Finerty on bass. However, they were a smidge upstaged by their electric frontman.

‘The Lick’ came next, and is probably my favourite song by Shame. It’s featured on their 2018 album ‘Songs of Praise’, but was first released as a single in 2016. Listening to the recorded version, it’s pure poetry. If the pages of ‘Trainspotting’ could sing! Of all their songs, this is the one which makes the most of Steen’s masterful storytelling ability. It’s told with unbelievable darkness and disenchantment, and is comparable to hearing Tricky perform. During the show, Steen warned the audience to not take their music too seriously. Well, guys, I’ll stop taking it seriously when you stop using such serious themes! ‘The Lick’ makes a dark caricature of Christian ritual. It seems to imply that grim reality is not comparable with New Testament ideas of forgiveness – we belong in the gristly Old Testament or in hell: “Bathe me in blood and call it a christening”. Shame routinely deal with heavy themes – spirituality, classism, politics… Their music is a manifestation of human vice.

Shame

Shame

The performance of ‘The Lick’ was wild. As he sang “Bathe me in blood”, Steen summoned a ready volunteer from the crowd and christened him from a water bottle. The volunteer in question was euphoric! Without warning, Steen hurled from the stage and crowdsurfed. Finerty had also lost his shirt by this point – in fairness, it was about a thousand degrees! The room had devolved into a bubbling cauldron of human limbs. The crowd were jumping for joy to the music. This was without doubt the best crowd reaction I’ve seen at The Hare & Hounds for a long time (although I was later told that this was Shame’s tamest gig yet. Brummies, consider this your call to battle. Next time Shame comes to visit, I challenge you to show them what fabulous beasts you truly are. This is Birmingham! We are not tame! Show these London boys how it’s done!).

Of course this was all great, but the problem with Shame’s performance style is that a lot of the depth and subtlety of the music gets lost. I’m sure if they’re reading this they’re laughing and saying, “What subtlety?!” I am being serious, though. I concede that the gig wouldn’t have been as dynamic without pandemonium, but it’s still a pity that the full blackness of expression wasn’t conveyed. On another note, I also regret that they didn’t play their 2017 single ‘Visa Vulture’. It has a far softer feel than their other songs, so I can see why they’d feel that it wouldn’t fit into the set. It would have been the perfect topical reference, though. At the moment that I’m writing this, the Windrush scandal is in full swing. ‘Visa Vulture’ is completely relevant, as it talks about Theresa May deporting immigrants in the most unconscionable of ways. It’s also hilariously written. It sounds like a love song until you listen closely. In it, Steen asks her to have a “moral conscience”, crooning, “I want more than your sideways smile […] Oh, Theresa May, won’t you let me stay?”

Shame

Shame

Don’t let that take away from the energy of the performance, though! Steen is a brilliant frontman. He’s unabashed and excessive. A proper star in the making, he handles and hypes the crowd beautifully. Finerty hops around the stage like a rock ‘n’ roll flamingo. Between the two of them, there’s action wherever you look. There were moments that some people may have found uncomfortable, but that’s forgivable. Shame are erupting onto stage, and there are bound to be birthing pains. They are in their late teens/early twenties – they’re still babies when it comes to performance, after all!

We were treated to a new song! So new, in fact, that it doesn’t yet have a name. The melody has a cruising feel. Instrumentally it’s almost relaxed at the beginning, but still with that classic vocal intensity. The new song led wonderfully into ‘Angie’. This is a track about loss which stands out among other songs of its type through the originality of the lyrics. It has something of Heathcliff about it; “Just so once more / I can feel your skin / confined in soil walls.” Shame delivered it with a heartfelt tone, and created the sound of misery. You could feel the thrumming bass notes right in your guts, as if the band needed you to physically feel the grief.

Shame

Shame

They whacked the atmosphere back to the sky with ‘Lampoon’, and the crowd finally descended into full-blown mosh pit chaos. Come to Shame bearing arms! They closed the set with ‘Gold Hole’, one of their oldest and best known tracks. The crowd howled “shake me up, shake me up” as Steen threw himself into our arms and crowdsurfed once more. He pulled down his trousers! (Well, as much as possible without being arrested for indecent public exposure.) I had no idea a strip tease was included in the price of a ticket! Bargain!

When he made it back to the stage, Steen mounted a speaker and towered above the seething bodies, a complete Trash Emperor. There was an insane clashing instrumental build. Finerty was possessed – he crashed into walls and writhed on the floor. The crowd was high on the sound. Steen cried, “Shame, Shame, that’s the name. We’ll be back in November.”

Shame

Shame

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