Shame – The Haunt, Brighton – 20th April 2018

Photo by Liam McMillen

Sometimes Brighton is a little too good for its own good. While Shame were rocking at The Haunt, Spanish four-piece Hinds were playing Concorde 2 and Manchester post-punk outfit Cabbage were at Patterns. Still, such was the impressive nature of South London’s Shame, it felt like a sizeable moment both for the band and the city, as both came together to create one of the gigs of 2018 so far, subsequently creating one of the most raucous, balls-to-the-wall atmospheres Brighton has seen for a while.

Opening on this special night were Berlin’s Gurr. The three-piece performed an exciting set, made up of effervescent, punky guitar pop that falls between the 00s indie revolution and the rise of 90s American grunge and riot grrrl. ‘#1985’, inspired by the ridiculous characters they see in Berlin’s nightlife, has greasy, surf-rock undercurrents and a riff that would perfectly fit on The Strokes’ Is This It. Likewise, a lot of fun was had by their cover of Kim Wilde’s ‘Kids in America’ and a little snippet of Gwen Stefani’s ‘Hollaback Girl’. If one thing was clear from Gurr’s set, it’s that they’re a hell of a lot of fun.

By the time Shame made their way to the stage, The Haunt must have been at double its capacity, such was the demand to see arguably one of the most exciting bands on the scene at the moment. It would be fair to say, too, that once that did arrive on stage there was a volcanic eruption and what felt like everyone moving in unison to get closer to the band. From the opening of ‘Dust on Trial’ all the way until the ending notes of final song ‘Gold Hole’, it was a musical onslaught of limbs flailing, outrageous amounts of moshing and a band on the top of their game.

In many ways, this is the Charlie Steen show – and the rest of the band rightly let him get on with being an exceptionally charismatic frontman. Whether he’s shoving the microphone in an audience member’s face and letting them sing, kissing a member of the audience or throwing himself head first into the crowd, Steen has completely broken down the barrier between band and audience. Importantly, too, like a lot of this wave of post-punk coming to the fore, it doesn’t seem to be based around vulgarity. These songs stand on their own as terrific, socio-political messages, and they don’t sour it with redundant obscenity.

It’s this dynamism that makes Shame all the more playful and diverse as a band too. With the angrily spitted vocals of ‘Lampoon’ and ‘Tasteless’ he’s as angry as you expect him to be, but there’s lighter moments too. ‘One Rizla’, the first ever song they wrote as a band, is a delicious slice of melodious rock with a hint of (whisper it) pop, while the brooding, provocative tinges of ‘The Lick’ sees Steen connecting with the crowd with his witty narrative. Likewise, a new, as yet untitled song easily displayed that Shame are here to stay for a long time.

At the start of this year, Steen told The Guardian that, “The idea of a rock star is offensive”, but on the evidence shown at The Haunt, Steen could be this country’s most captivating and exciting frontman we’ve had in years. He’s every bit the rock star on this showcase but, importantly, Steen and the band don’t take themselves too seriously and they certainly don’t care what people think. Crucial lyricism, a gratifying live performance and an audience lapping up every single second, it was about as rewarding and uplifting as a gig can be.

Liam McMillen