By Mia Smith, Co-Deputy Music Editor
To ring in the last date of their UK tour, the post-punk gang took to The Marble Factory and proved that after 3 years of uncertain touring, rock and roll never dies.
While I was watching Shame’s support - Sam Akpro and The Goa Express, both excellent, the lead singer of the latter playing a 12-string guitar, a harmonica and banging a tambourine on his chest - I realised I was stood next to Shame’s frontman. Comically bundled in a huge coat and scarf with a pint in hand, Charlie Steen had broken the fourth wall. A really lovely guy, I learnt he just loves shaking people’s hands - he shook mine, and then spent every spare second of the gig shaking hands with everyone in the front row.
Steen masterfully dissolves the barrier between the band and their fans - by the third song he’s already entered the crowd, not by stage diving but simply strolling into it. It’s a biblical scene; he walks across the sea of hands with an impossible upright grace before eventually being swallowed into the pit.
The set was a celebration of Shame: the perfect mix of old and new tracks that showed off their always developing sound. Newer songs like ‘Nigel Hitter’, ‘Alphabet’ and most recent release ‘This Side of the Sun’ are louder and punchier, but somehow more refined. The crowd know every word, and their call and response style songs are taken to a new level when played live. ‘The Lick’ proves a crowd favourite; it’s an exercise in storytelling from beginning line ‘This is how it starts’. It’s snarling and dirty, practically made to be played between the cold industrial beams of the Marble Factory.
Steen is a vision of the perfect frontman, a controlled chaos unleashed again after the band's livestream shows of the early pandemic. He simply has to stand with his arms open to induce a flurry of mosh pits - ones that were so intense that I’ve genuinely ended up with a broken toe. (Steen wasn’t joking when he sings ‘And if you listen closely/Then you'll hear/The bones crack’ on ‘Station Wagon’.) But the pits were brimming with love - friends sprinting to familiar faces across the circle, friends with their arms round each other’s shoulders dancing in the centre.
The band finishes with ‘Station Wagon’ - a huge tune that clocks in at almost 7 minutes. There’s a shift in the air: Steen urges us to resist making pits, instead instructing us to ‘get close’. The final performance begins like a quiet poem, Steen’s breath hitching before exploding into utter pandemonium. The crowd spot the perfect opportunity to crowd surf, and at least 10 figures rise to try their hand at Steen’s craft.
Leaving the stage, Steen leaves us with some memorable last words: ‘We’re called Shame. Shame. Shame. That’s our f****ing name’. The crowd are left chanting for ‘one more song!’ but Shame don’t roll like the rest. The lights come up and they’re gone, always leaving us wanting more.
Outside the Marble Factory, a boy runs into the November night with Steen’s mic stand that he grabbed during the first song and clutched for the entire gig. Others leave with their light-hearted merch: foam fingers and flame resistant jackets - everyone is desperate to take a piece of Shame home.
As soon as the band swaggered on to Jason Derulo’s ‘Watcha Say’, the crowd knew it would be a gig to remember. It was a Shame (sorry) that the band didn’t play their awfully autotuned take on ‘Feliz Navidad’ so close to Christmas, but the night was still a stonking success.
Featured image: Mia Smith
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