By Mark Ross, First year politics and French
Having finally earned a tour of their own, The LaFontaines descended onto the Mother’s Ruin to bash through yet another of the 20+ shows dedicated to the soaring success of their latest album, Junior.
Well, actually, to the slightly less salubrious setting of the ‘Old England’ pub: a move attributed to - in lead singer Kerr Okan’s typically blunt manner - the “shitehole” that was the intended venue. Arriving at a living-room sized boozer manned by a gaggle of soggy loyal fans, expectations were low.
The Motherwell trio didn’t seem to notice. Thumping renditions of previous albums’ classics (“Under the Storm” and “King”) were as energetically performed as they were in the Birmingham 02 (the previous venue on the tour), obliterating any question marks hanging over the band’s infamous reputation for electric live performances. Kerr’s staccato-scots rapping seemed to be aimed at every audience member, dragging the crowd along with him in his vitriolic diatribe on issues from Brexit to the economy – whether they wanted to be or not. Even the chino-wearing, Stoke Bishopian reviewer was tapping his feet to the anti-austerity rattle of “Under the Storm”.
The Mike Skinner-esque rapping at times verged on hip-hop (listen to “pro” to see whether you agree), arguably a hangover from the band’s time touring with the likes of Anderson Paak., as well as the the pop-ier Deaf Havana and DON BROCO. The trio didn’t stray from their roots for long, however: their grungy, rocky sound was a definite hallmark of their live show, underpinning the overall anthemic/stadium vibe of their performance. The driving rhythm of guitarist/producer Darren McCaughey further energised the crowd, who Kerr then masterfully conducted; he pounced on the lack of stage/crowd barriers to dodge amongst his fans, handing out high-fives like a presidential candidate. Wit shone through both his lyrics and dialogue, with suspiciously Kevin-Bridges like quips showing the LaFontaines to be more than just-another-rock-band.
As the set list ventured into the new album, it was easy to see why “Junior” had broken the Top 40 threshold so soon after its release. A spattering of lighter, funkier tunes (“Up” and “Anything at All”, in particular) noticeably swapped head banging for toe tapping. Paired with catchy choruses, this new material panders perfectly to the modern (and dare I say, younger) listener: it seems the band have conveniently overcome their earlier annoyance over “songs from the heart” not being played as they “wouldn’t make the charts” (listen to “All in”).
With the support of NOVACUB – an indie pop band featuring previous members of Bloc Party (remember them?) – the LaFontaines wowed in difficult circumstances and revealed a glimpse of their future sound. I, as you should be, am watching this space closely.