ACL Live Review: Shame

Sunday morning songs of (post-punk) praise

“Fuckin’ hell it’s hot out t’day,” ventured Charlie Steen, squinting into Sunday’s noonday sun. Later, the Shame vocalist added, “We’re English. We’re not used to the sunshine.”

Photo by David Brendan Hall

As such, Steen ensured that the group’s second American festival appearance turned into a communion of sweat. Tossing his shirt scrawled in Sharpie with the revealing claim “not angry” onto the stage floor, winning a wrestling match with his microphone, hopping down to the stage’s lower riser, and hoarsely chanting “closer and closer and closer and closer” before striking a crucifixion pose, the frontman put on a show.

Steen elicits the loudest applauses not while singing, but when he surveys the audience with arms out, palms up, as if asking, “Are you with me?” On the final day from the first weekend of ACL Fest, some 300 people showed up early to spend their lunch hour with Shame. That proved an exceptionally appropriate time to hear tracks off the quintet’s Dead Oceans-issued debut Songs of Praise.

“And I hope that you hear me,” the crowd chanted while Steen pumped his mic stand like a baton on “Concrete,” a track that equally hinges on bassist John Finerty, who evinced some Angus Young DNA by staging a track meet of running and leaping during each show. Good thing he’s usually wearing athletic shorts.

Offsetting guitar pillars Eddie Green and Sean Coyle-Smith don’t play jagged power chords. Rather, they specialize in swelling progressions where subtle lead melodies bleed out, notably on highlight “One Rizla.” Its opening stanza is as good a summary of Shame as any: “My nails ain't manicured/ My voice ain’t the best you’ve heard/ And you can choose to hate my words/ But do I give a fuck?”

Flying in the face of post-punk’s typified cold and aloof nature, Shame engages behind lads eager to fulfill their stated purpose: to entertain. They did so, too, despite the midday heat and a performance that occurred only 11 hours after they’d gotten offstage from the previous night’s show at Barracuda. With their 40-minute Zilker Park set culminating in Steen lashing his microphone cable to a mass chant of “I like you better when you’re not around,” the young London fivesome left ACL Fest wanting more.

Too bad, they’re weekend-one-only.

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Sunday ACL Fest 2018 Record Reviews
Songs of Praise (Record Review)

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Shame, ACL Fest 2018, ACL Music Fest 2018, Charlie Steen, Eddie Green, Sean Coyle-Smith, John Finerty, Barracuda

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