GUN - Thekla Bristol
As Paul and the younger Hutchings males were in London with the emotive tones of Katatonia, Mrs H, Dan, Nicola and myself headed to our second home Bristol, to catch the Scottish rockers on the boat. I last saw the band at Camden Rocks and they blew my socks off with how tight and actually how heavy they were live. So I was excited to see whether they could replicate that performance in a smaller more local venue and also it was a great way for them to show those undecided that they were a great addition to the Black Star Riders tour next year.
As we entered the venue, after the first pint of the night of course, we were in time to catch SKAM (7) who I have seen before at Hard Rock Hell, however here they did make more than a fleeting mark, with a muscular brand of power trio hard rock that saw them flying through songs from both of their albums. They have a knack of mixing big riffs with sing-along choruses (much like the headliners) and by the time they were near the end of their set they had drawn quite a reasonable crowd all of whom were clapping along and heartily sang the opening parts of War Pigs when the band dived into a snippet from it in their final song. The almost relentless touring of this band is to their advantage as they are a formidable live force and seemed to be loving their time on stage, even if guitarist Steve's guitar did go out of tune, but as group of consummate professionals bassist Matt Gilmore and drummer Neal Hill treated us to a jazz odyssey as Steve tuned. A firebrand start to the night and one that set everyone up for the main event.
As the room filled out, however there were not as many I would have liked to see on a Friday night, the banner on the back of the stage was exposed and as the PA closed out the band took to the stage in their new 5-man version, this tour has seen them reunite with original guitarist Alex Dickson who was in the band during the Gallus era. This addition made GUN (9) a much louder prospect than before, as Dickson and founding member Jools Gizzi traded licks and riffs right from the opener of Let It Shine, behind them the rhythm section of Paul McManus (drums) and Andy Carr (bass) drove the hard rock groove, most effectively on Word Up! which came second in the set to many people's surprise. Still we all sang along and shook our hips as frontman (and original bassist) Dante Gizzi crooned with his tough vocals.
There wasn't a break as the tempo was kept high during Don't Say It's Over, Better Days, which still has a cracking guitar sound to it, even after all these years and Hold Your Head Up. Most of the set was drawn from their debut record Taking On The World with the title track sitting mid set as huge crowd participation piece and the nearest thing they get to a ballad. Live GUN have a toughness that has never really translated on their records (except maybe their latest Frantic, off which three songs were featured). Dante was a genial host keeping the stage banter to a minimum, which was a benefit as many couldn't hear his broad Scottish accent, he just belted out the songs as the rest of the band rocked hard Jools and Alex sharing out the solos.
Alex taking most of the songs from the Gallus era, including the impressive Welcome To The Real World (sing along alert), my favourite track Steal Your Fire and Freedom which kicked off the encore, that was rounded out by Shame On You and Fight For Your Right To Party. A groovy, raucous show packed with should-have-been-classics GUN provide a quality hard rock show, personally I hope Alex sticks around until at least the BSR tour as GUN's sound deserves the dual guitar sound witnessed hear. If you're going to the shows next year go early as GUN will be throwing down a serious gauntlet to pick up.