If you’ve got tickets for the Gun show, you ought to make it to one in their native Glasgow, and if it’s Glasgow, it needs to be the Barrowland Ballroom (or ‘The Barras’). A venue that any self-respecting music fan HAS to visit at least once in their lifetime, it truly is the stuff of legends. One such legend being when Bowie played the venue in 1997; one of the porcelain stars fell off the ceiling narrowly missing him. Caring not a jot, he simply picked it up and popped it in his pocket as a souvenir. The burgers on sale are also legendary… but for all the wrong reasons. It’s fair to say that Gun had been building up to this gig for some time, and it proved to be a little bit magical.
The job of kicking off the evening fell to Londoners Dirty Thrills, one of the many young British acts that have found a home with Frontiers Music. Blues-rock is very much the order of the day, but with a little dash of funk added just for the sheer hell of it. Not quite full-on Crobot-style funk, but pretty damn close to it, especially on the delicious ‘Law Man’. Vocalist Louis James is a hell of a frontman. At times, his mannerisms and movements reminded me of Steven Tyler (Tyler-isms?). He uses his mic stand as an extra limb and dances like no-one is watching. Dirty Thrills don’t look like your average blues-rock band. Drummer Steve Corrigan is the only band member to opt for the traditional uniform of jeans and a t-shirt, with the other three guys going for a more bohemian look. You would know that they were in a band though, even if you were totally unfamiliar with them. Time on the road with Black Star Riders has enhanced their reputation as a young band to keep an eye out for, ‘The Brave’ being a great example of the confidence within the band.
Another young band to keep an eye out for are Mason Hill. The local boys have been building up a head of steam, picking up plaudits wherever they play, be it a festival appearance or a club gig. Mason Hill t-shirts were in abundance, and while the place would have been packed regardless who Gun picked as special guests, it was a savvy move going with these five guys. For such a young band, they look very comfortable on stage, and it seems that playing in such an infamous venue doesn’t phase them at all. Most of the set is made up of tracks from the debut EP, but we are treated to a sneak peak of the forthcoming album in the shape of ‘I Don’t Care’. While it might seem unfair to single out individual performances, special mention has to go to the powerhouse drumming of CraIg McFetridge, and the heartfelt solos from lead guitarist James Bird. Proof indeed of how hard work pays off. 2018 is a crucial year for the band. Word of mouth has got to the stage that the debut album can’t come soon enough. Watch this space.
The last time Gun played this venue, vocalist Dante Gizzi was a tad under the weather, and looked rougher than a camel’s arsehole in a sandstorm. Making the gig memorable for him for all the wrong reasons. Fast forward two years, and he’s out to make up for it, the look of sheer joy doesn’t leave his face the entire ninety minutes that he is on stage. Even the most stoney-faced of cynics would have been cheering his corner, as he looked so joyous in putting the nightmare of 2015 behind him. Humble as well, very humble, constantly taking out his ear-piece to soak up the crowd reaction like a open-mouthed kid walking through the gates of Walt Disney World for the first time.
Gun have a rather spiffing new album out there, and the set opens with a quick one-two from ‘Favourite Pleasures’. The album opens with the fast paced ‘She Knows’, and it transfers to the live setting perfectly. This is followed by the foot-stomping T-Rex infused glam rock of ‘Here’s Where I Am’, and the famous ballroom floor is getting a serious workout. It’s a big stage production with risers, piercing strobes, dozens of lights on posts, and a decent sized screen behind drummer Paul McManus. Gun mean business, and it’s a great reflection on the new album that so much of it is aired. The catchy title track sounds stunning live, as does ‘Black Heart’ and ‘Take me Down’. It looks like ‘Tragic Heroes’ is the fan’s favourite from the new album. Gizzi explains that the band collated all the responses about the album into a pie-chart, and this one came out on top. With so many quality moments from a lengthy career to choose from, Gun turn back the years with soaring versions of gems like ‘Don’t Say It’s Over’, ‘Welcome To The Real World’, and a belting version of ‘Steal Your Fire’.
2019 will herald the 30th anniversary of debut album ‘Taking On The World’, and it would be great to catch the band playing it in its entirety. The songs are as memorable today as they were when the band first broke onto the scene and found themselves playing stadiums, opening for The Rolling Stones. ‘Better Days’, ‘Money (Everybody Loves Her)’, ‘Inside Out’, and a glorious version of ‘Shame On You’ sound re-energised in 2017, partly down to the stunning dual guitar work from Jools Gizzi and Tommy Gentry. Looking like a healthier version of Sick Boy from Trainspotting, Gentry is impressive to watch, as he takes turns with founding member Gizzi to throw the requisite shapes while peeling off riff after riff. Trainspotting is back on the agenda as the screen flickers to life near the end of the set. The unmistakable sight of Archie Gemmill dancing round the Dutch defence to score THAT goal in the 1978 World Cup is played over and over again, “I haven’t felt that good since….”. Grainy footage of boxer Benny Lynch is also aired. The 1992 album ‘Gallus’ featured Lynch on the cover, and it’s touching to see the band paying their own tribute to a local hero. Cover versions play a big part in a Gun setlist, and although ‘Word Up’ is aired early on, the band close out the set with a raucous version of ‘(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)’. This was one hell of a party, and if you are in the vicinity of Manchester on the 8th of December, or London on the 9th, get your dancing shoes on, and be prepared to bounce!
Review: Dave Stott
Images: Callum Scott