Live Reports

Embracing Shame with open arms at the AB

Shame @ Ancienne Belgique– Brussels– 05 April 2023 // FreakMike Photography for CtrlAltMusic

On 5th April, Brussels was delighted to welcome London post-punk band Shame at the AB for the penultimate show of their European tour.

After releasing two highly acclaimed albums, Shame found itself in the typical post-pandemic writer’s block. They were running in circles trying to produce new music, but remained stuck in a creative dead end. In an attempt to get the Londoners out of this creative halt, their management sent them to the sleepy provincial town of Rugby with one mission: not to come back until they had written something they could play at their then upcoming London show. Their 3rd album “Food for Worms” came out of these two weeks of imposed lockdown in Rugby. And once again, Shame was praised for their contribution to making punk a valid genre in this era. The no-BS lyrics cover themes like addiction and self-awareness, and contain just the amount of social critique and unfettered anger you want from a post-punk record. Since they were working on “Food for Worms” with an upcoming show in the back of their heads, the record is really a work that was meant to be played live. Hence our double excitement to attend the gig at the AB.

They Hate Change: unusual but effective choice for an opening act

The show starts with US rap duo They Hate Change, a pick that may seem unsuited to a crowd who came to lose it on guitar riffs. But Shame’s choice reveals a contemporary openness to different music genres, a quality the punk scene will need if it wants to alter its current niche status. The crowd seems a little uneasy at first, passively shuffling from left to right. Yet the duo’s dynamic, fast-paced tracks from their last album “Finally, New” make it impossible to stand still. I catch myself foolishly smiling while noticing their infectious enthusiasm. The Florida pair bounce from one corner of the stage to the other and rock a martial arts-inspired duo dance on the drum ‘n bass beats of “From the Floor”. You can feel the energy building up among the crowd, and by the end, even the middle-aged punk dad throws his hands in the air. By picking They Hate Change as their opening act, Shame hit the target: exposing their fan base to quality music they would never have listened to on their own, while getting them warm and stretched out for what comes next.

They Hate Change @ Ancienne Belgique– Brussels– 05 April 2023 // FreakMike Photography for CtrlAltMusic

Shame granting our punk wishes

Shame’s arrival on stage swiftly shifts the mood to punk severity. Lead singer Charlie Steen peers into our souls with a stern look on his face. It’s “their only time in Brussels, so it’d better be good,” he warns. The charismatic Londoner kicks it off with “Fingers of Steel”, the first single of “Food for Worms” and a track that screams to be played live. You can see the stage is the band’s favourite hangout – they’re attuned to each other like interdependent species of fish in a tank. Bass player Josh Finerty cracks into a jumping spree every 5’ while Steen regularly comes to the fore to grasp the keenest fans’ hands. Drummer Charlie Forbes has made himself comfortable removing almost all of his clothes. Before playing the breakneck rhythms of “Six-Pack“, Steen promises he’ll “make us motherfuckers look good”. Meanwhile in the depths of the pit it’s all about (not too) gentle pushing and flying cups of beer.

So, it’s going great so far. We’ve been working out, showing our six packs. Shame is giving us everything we had been wishing for on a post-punk night. We hadn’t expected the second half of the show would lift us up even higher, though. After a smooth guitar transition by Eddie Green and Sean Coyle-Smith, Steen tells us it’s “time to put cucumbers on our eyes and relax for a bit.” They start playing the melodic ballad “Adderall”, a melancholic ode to dependence reminiscent of The Velvet Underground’s “Heroin”. Then Coyle-Smith picks up his acoustic guitar for another highlight of the album, “Orchid”. This track reveals the band’s versatility in its slow, acoustic start but steady build-up into a storm of punk riffs. The intensity of this part of the show has transported us into a state of relaxed bliss.

Shame @ Ancienne Belgique– Brussels– 05 April 2023 // FreakMike Photography for CtrlAltMusic

As the set comes to an end, Steen tells us “it’s time to get the cucumbers out of our eyes and exit the sauna”. Hearing the melodic guitar notes of Shame’s hit song “One Rizla” (from their debut “Songs of Praise“), a dedicated rocker suddenly jumps onto the stage. While the band (somewhat awkwardly) looks on, security manages to neutralize the frantic character. The Londoners can only blame themselves, they’re literally making the audience lose control. As I look around, floating horizontal bodies are continuously passing by, being picked up by the diligent security guard at the front of the stage, while the central mosh pit is dangerously growing.

After Shame’s fierce performance of “Angie”, people refuse to leave the premises and scream for an encore. It’s usually not included in their set, but it seems the band wants to reward us for “making it one of the best shows of their tour”. They come back to end the night with intensity as Steen walks all over the crowd on “Gold Hole”.

Leaving the AB all wet with sweat and beer, I’m not sure Shame lived up to the task of making us look good, but they were more than successful at making us feel alive.

Setlist: Fingers of Steel, Alibis, Alphabet, Concrete, The Lick, Six-Pack, Tasteless, Burning by Design, 6/1, Born in Luton, The Fall of Paul, Adderall, Orchid, Water in the Well, One Rizla, Snow Day, Angie, Encore: Gold Hole.

Don’t worry if you missed them, Shame will be be back in the country for the Cactus festival in Bruges on 9 July.

Shame @ Ancienne Belgique– Brussels– 05 April 2023 // FreakMike Photography for CtrlAltMusic

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