The South London post-punk quintet Shame seemed an ill fit for the Red Marquee, especially at lunch time, though something might be said for watching the band do their singular thing on an empty stomach. The music is lean and uncompromising, punchy with melody and rhythmic breaks that feel like trap doors being released. It was their first trip to Fuji and the band seemed more stoked at the prospect than the crowd was — at the beginning, anyway. Once the group got going there was no question they were glad they came.
Charlie Steen is the kind of vocalist who looks as if he’d punch you out one minute and then turn around and buy you a pint the next. He was aggressive about the audience being into the music, which is sort of gauche for post-punk acts. When the band got wound up he was all elbows and swinging fists, though he couldn’t hold a candle in the manic energy department to bass player Josh Finerty, a short bloke who — in true Angus Young style — seemed to be everywhere at once. In fact, the stage really wasn’t big enough for the band, which needs room to act out their cynical political rags. If the drummer wasn’t obliged to stay behind his kit he probably would have been jumping into the audience.
As the pace quickened and the songs gathered force, the audience pressed forward until the band and the crowd were practically one. Steen was in his element, punk Christ-like, bare-chested, aching for a drink probably. He seemed genuinely touched by the Japanese crowd’s obvious boost in interest and took advantage of it. In a way, I was actually glad they didn’t do their version of “Rock Lobster,” whose louche dance style would have put a kibosh on what had turned out to be a primo rock show in the classic sense. Just watch out for those elbows.