2017 has been arguably the biggest year for Gun in the near decade since the Scots reformed, with a critically acclaimed new album, ‘Favourite Pleasures’, radio airplay, prestigious festival slots such as Stone Free, and finally this winter tour.
The London leg saw them play the Electric Ballroom, several times the capacity of favoured recent venues such as the Underworld and the Borderline, making this perhaps their biggest show in the Capital since their original days.
However this was achieved in the unlikely circumstances of a double headliner with InMe. Now rather out of the spotlight after a series of well received albums and singles early in the 2000’s, their alternative, rather grungey sounds shared little in common with Gun, with a lack of memorable hooks, with the notable exception of ‘Firefly’. They were certainly talented musicians but, personally speaking, I found it hard to get past mainman Dave McPherson’s rather harsh and unmelodic vocals.
The two bands were playing to entirely different audiences, and as a series of generally younger fans filed out after their set and Gun fans moved in from the bars, it struck me that this was perhaps the most mismatched pairing since Shed Seven somehow supported Aerosmith in the heyday of Britpop.
The other disadvantage of a double headline, especially on a night when the punters were kicked out early for the club crowd, was a set of just an hour, but Gun wasted no time and also showed their confidence in their new material by opening with ‘She Knows’ with an almost Cult-esue riff, and and ‘Here’s Where I Am’, the latter showing that they are unafraid to keep it contemporary with a beat that called to mind the Black Keys or Goldfrapp.
Impressive the new material may have been, but it was familiar tunes the majority had turned out for and they were soon rewarded as fists punched to ‘Don’t Say It’s Over’ before a surprisingly early ‘Word Up’. However, even the old songs have taken on a new freshness with blonde guitarist Tommy Gentry being a real find – his sharper, more aggressive soloing, not to mention a lively stage presence – very effectively complementing the chunky riffs and solos of mainstay Jools Gizzi.
Brother Dante meantime looks ever more at ease in the frontman’s role since converting from bass and even the old songs lose little from not being delivered by original singer Mark Rankin.
Alongside the evergreen first hit in the rousing ‘Better Days’, new material featured prominently and a few chances were taken – a piano-led ballad ‘The Boy Who Fooled The World’, was a lyrical and musical revelation while ‘Favourite Pleasures’ itself combined a ‘Trampled Underfoot’-inspired funky beat with an accessible pop chorus. Even the more ordinary ‘Black Heart’ was enlivened by a fine guitar solo.
The set rocked ever harder to an all-too-rapid close with ‘Inside Out’, then on perhaps my favourite Gun song, ‘Steal Your Fire’, Dante duetted with guest Lauren Harris who used to cover it during her solo career, before the crowd were jumping to traditional closer ‘Shame on You’ with Dante even taking off to the staircase to the left of the Ballroom’s dance floor.
With time at a premium, I felt a cover of ‘Fight For Your Right To Party’ was rather needless, especially with the likes of ‘Money’ not making the cut, but the raucous atmosphere suggested I was in a minority.
No longer just a band to be looked on nostalgically for being one of the few rockers with the commercial nous to trouble the singles chart in the first half of the nineties, this all too short set confirmed Gun’s renaissance into a relevant contemporary act.
Review and Photos by Andy Nathan
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Power Plays w/c 20 August 2018
JOLLYMON Monkeyhawk (indie)
WAKE THE SUN Squeezebox (indie)
THE BRUTALISTS Form & Function (Cleopatra Records)
STIMULI Pill For The Pill (indie)
DAN REED NETWORK Fade To Light (Zero One Entertainment)
THE TREATMENT Let’s Get Dirty (Frontiers)
Featured Albums w/c 20 August (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 AIRRACE Untold Stories (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 MASSIVE WAGONS Full Nelson (Earache)
14:00-16:00 GRAHAM GOULDMAN Love And Work (Wienerworld)
Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)
18:00-19:00 ROACHFORD Permanent Shade Of Blue (1994)
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