Monday 3 July 2023

Grian Chatten - Manchester Night And Day Cafe - 2nd July 2023

Five years after Fontaines D.C. played a barnstorming set on the very same stage the songwriter of his generation Grian Chatten returned to perform tracks from his stunning debut solo album Chaos For The Fly. Jason Wynne reports back from the Piccadilly Records out-store at Night And Day Cafe on Sunday evening.

Equipped with a solitary guitar, a couple of pints of Guinness and his mesmeric poetry the mercurial frontman wowed the expectant audience with a seven song salvo that had the crowd hanging off his every word and note.

Hidden behind the shades, every bit the rock star, it’s impossible to look deep into the eyes and do some soul searching but it’s his music and words that speak volumes and, although a stripped back show, he pours out his heart and soul sharing stories of love, loss, hope and despair.

The wonderfully titled Salt Throwers Off A Truck opens proceedings. A ballad that could be from any century delivered to sweet perfection in intimate surroundings. Not looking out of place on his lonesome up on stage, all eyes and ears are transfixed on Grian and we marvel at his poetic genius delivering lines such as “Salt throwers were taming the sidewalks with haste, ‘til the whole of the city was seasoned to taste”. How can someone so young write something so beautiful?

Amidst the rapturous applause that signals the end of the opener Chatten declares that the next song is “A horrible song. I hope you have your whiskies with ya”. That song is All Of The People. A beautiful song in many ways but also a brutal and heartbreaking assessment of how you should trust nobody. It’s clear with such a suspicious mind you’ll find poison wherever you look. “People are scum” rages Grian accentuating the “scum” with intent and for maximum effect.

“Don’t let anyone tell you that they wanna be your friend, They just want to get close enough to take the final shot” he concludes displaying an old head on young shoulders dealing with the trappings of success and the ruthless industry he works in. The song’s a triumph too though as he turns it into a rousing battle cry accompanied by that unmistakable gorgeous lilt.

The tenderness of I Am So Far reveals more about the man and guitar. The poignancy of the track running through the veins of someone who wears his heart on his sleeve. You can hear a pin drop as Grian commands the room and has the undivided attention of everyone. It’s moments like this when you realise what a special talent you are witnessing before your very eyes in such an intense and intimate space.

Lead single and album opener The Score is delivered with melancholy as we get to experience the impressive vocal dexterity on display. Various shades of darkness in style and substance keep the track eerie enough and it’s teemed with bitterness reflecting the nature of the song and first hand experiences.

Stand out track on the day (and of the album for me) is the dynamic and spirited Fairlies. The energy takes the performance to another level. The sprawling disposition of the song conflicting between happy and sad and there’s a delightful toing and froing between Grian and audience throughout the whole song. The noise levels rise as lines are sung back and forth between Grian and the people. All of the people. Behind those fly wraparounds his eyes must have lit up with the rousing response and hearing his words sung right back at him.

“There’s a thing about people I suppose is alright” confesses Grian. “It’s when they smile right at their pain through all the day and night” - or night and day given the surroundings - before delivering one last blast of that guitar, foot stomping away, creating that feeling of celebration, of elation, unleashing the shackles before crashing to an end to the deafening applause of an ecstatic gathering of family, friends and fans.

A pleasant surprise is the inclusion of Fontaines number and bittersweet symphony The Couple Across The Way. Minus that gorgeous accordion the song doesn’t lose the sentiment. You get to more than just appreciate the grey when hearing these songs performed with very little meat on the bones. The tenderness, the rawness and the fragility all evident and for those in attendance it’s such a relatable story no matter how young, or old, you are.

Just like the solo album Season For Pain is the closing number of an impressive set. It seems to be over in a flash. As the song goes “How can life go slowly and death come so fast”. You can feel the gut wrenching despair. Dispirited and in a state of hopelessness Grian laments “Your words are powerless here” yet it’s his pure poetry in motion that has led us here to see this wordsmith perform many songs from one of the midterm contenders for Album of the Year. 

Flying high above the chaos not only is Grian Chatten already the songwriter of his generation but it’s possible he may be heading in the direction of being remembered as the songwriter of any generation.

Fontaines D.C.'s official site can be found here. They are on Facebook and Twitter.

Grian Chatten’s website can be found here and he is on Facebook and Twitter.

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