Long have Shame been an unquestionably correct answer to the question “which band do I need to see live?”. I first got to see them at the first iteration of South London music festival, Wide Awake 2021, as they headlined in what was at the time their biggest performance. Backed by other Windmill alumni, Black Midi, Black Country, New Road, Squid, Goat Girl just to name a few, it was a tough ask to stand out on the day, but stand out they did. Now, in 2023, I find myself at Troxy, their biggest headline shows in London to a sold out floor and a buzz like no other.
Since the release of their third album, just over two months ago, I had been excited to see some of the more grandiose tracks in a live setting, and I wasn’t disappointed. Adderall cut through the testosterone fuelled anarchy that had insured throughout the show up until this point, bathing everyone in a unifying glow as thousands shouted the remainder of their lungs out. The shouts of “It gets you through the day” reverberated around my mind for the following few days, as it did when I first listened to their album.
The same can be said for the album closer All The People which, accompanied by a heart-warming string and brass section served as another euphoric rise into the stratosphere. The relentlessly slow build up and added instrumentation gave the performance a really special one off feel that served as a surprising highlight in the night.
Despite other, older songs in their discography providing the majority of the audience with more of an explosive reaction than the new, the best compliment I can give to the performances of the newer cuts is that each time one was played it made me want to go back an experience them again and again, whether live or just to listen to them.
The one thing I would have to say about the gig, was that it seemed to fall a little short for me when it came to the songs I had come to love from their first two albums. I don’t know if this was anything to do with the band, in fact, I’m almost sure it wasn’t, but I couldn’t help but shake the slight feeling of… unsatisfaction. I think it came down to my past experiences. Shame has been, and I’m sure always will be, mind blowing live, but the way tracks like Snow Day, Concrete or even One Rizla cut through you the first couple of times you experience them seemed to, at least for me, slightly fade. That being said, One Rizla, fit with its traditional “This next ones a new one” fake out still managed to get the crowd riled up more than any other point in the night.
As much as I truly believe my previous point, it doesn’t mean that these tracks completely fall flat, no Shame song ever will, but the loss of that ferocious bite really made me take a look at myself. Was it me? Had I passed the point of no return? Was 23 the beginning of the end? No, fuck that, but there is something to be said about losing that spark. That beautiful, unexplainable, spark that we all know.
Closing the set was the one song from the first album that lifted far above any other time I had experienced it, Angie. Coming on for an encore, I got the feeling that the playing of Angie was nothing more than impromptu. A front row heckle is what made up Frontman Charlie Steen’s mind. “What did you say? Angie? We can do that.” It was everything the recording version is (coincidently, for my money, still their best track) and so much more. The crowd was electric, pushing every high to the stratosphere and every low to a loving spread of communal angst. “Deep fry your feelings so they can’t escape, disappear into nothing and find your happy place” may as well be chiselled onto the forehead of everyone in attendance. I used to not know the happy place Steen was referencing, but now I do. Its Shame, live @ Troxy.