I could almost see the bouncer rolling his eyes each time lead singer Charlie Steen got up close and personal to crowd surf amongst his rapt audience. That said the bouncer did have to frantically ensure the mike cable wasn’t accidently being tightly wound around someone’s neck as it bobbed and weaved amongst the audience. What a way to go.
Say what you like about Shame, live they are a band giving their all. As the team were frenetically playing their respective instruments, Steen prowled the stage of Manchester Gorilla while the sweat of hard effort dripped off his naked torso. As Steen prowled the perimeter of the stage, hands would emerge from the audience to pat Steen on his belly or his arm and Steen gripped many outstretched hands (including mine). This is the week I discovered a study has determined that regular gig going can extend your life by up to 9 years; I therefore didn’t worry too much about the other recent study which told me that my can of beer was taking 30 minutes off my life. With all the goodwill and togetherness generated by the efforts of Shame on this evening I felt about a million light years ahead of the game.
Support was provided by German girl group Gurr (well actually the backing drummer was a man). There was more than an echo back to a proto punk Swiss band I used to adore back in the day, Liliput, and Gurr were likewise a band with plenty of energy and fire in their bellies. The songs were in a mix of German and English. As a lapsed accountant myself, I particularly resonated with their song about being a failed lawyer; these things are proven to be a fortuitous outturn in the end. Gurr have recently won the European Impala Independent Album of the Year (a bit like the Mercury album of the year) and they gave the room a buzzing anticipation for the second act, Shame.
As Shame shambled on for the sound check, it was clear they hadn’t spent the income from their current album on a makeover of their wardrobe. This is a band for dweeby boys to worship as they really don’t take themselves seriously. As things were likely to get frantic in the mosh-pit, it was a nice touch that Steen and the boys reminded everyone to respect each other, to be good and to be happy.
The set was primarily a glorious retelling of Shame’s most excellent album Songs of Praise (which has to be one of the albums of 2018), and during the evening there was a distinct vibe of the beat and sensibility of the Stone Roses, the weaving contemporary storytelling of Mike Skinner, the slightly off the wall feel and energy of The Fall, and the punk force and pure power, accessibility and intensity of the early Psychedelic Furs.
A highlight had to be a wonderful version of One Rizla, which like the rest of the set was perfectly executed. Steen has spoken about the mental pressures of constantly being disorientated on the road while everyone wants a piece of you, so it was good to hear a new song from the band in the set too (I noted the set list described the song as “untitled”, it is that fresh). I love the sneering but sweeping Roses feel song Friction with its simple but clear message, and the rambling genius of The Lick and it was cool to hear them live once again.
As a Twitter joke Shame had asked for bananas to match the name of the venue, and of course someone obliged; that end of the mosh-pit soon got a little precarious with pieces of slippery banana to avoid. To close was the perfect banging cynical tune Gold Hole; if it were not already needed, this provided the guarantee that the audience left Gorilla sweaty, happy and with manic panda eyes.
Personally I think Shame are one of the most exciting live draws in indie music on the circuit; if you don’t catch them at one of the summer festivals then they are visiting the North again in November, including the fabled Sheffield Leadmill on November 18th, Leeds University Union on 20 November and the o2 Ritz in Manchester on the 22nd