Review by Gary Spiller for MPM
At the end of a week which, for those with an inclination towards the spherical ball, had been a successful one on the international front this evening’s line-up at The Patriot seems most resonant. With Scotland, Wales, and England each winning their opening two Euro 2024 fixtures it simply feels befitting that one of South Wales’s leading grassroots rock venues plays host to Gun and their special guests Ashen Reach. Hailing from the musical hotbeds of Glasgow and Liverpool, respectively, these two outfits, at differing stages of their careers, have sold out Patriot some weeks in advance.
Gun, founded in ’87, have scaled the rungs of chart success – singles and albums alike – and toured with the likes of Bon Jovi and The Rolling Stones. Whilst Ashen Reach are very much in their infancy in comparison with the much-lauded 2020 debut long-player ‘Homecoming’ their sole release thus far. What these two bands have in common is that wherever they play they go down an absolute storm. Gun’s performance at Stonedead in 2021 and Ashen Reach’s at last year’s Steelhouse festival spring immediately to mind.
Thundering in on spectral phantom steeds Ashen Reach gather upon the Patriot stage in a burst of light. An unseen power surges taking all with its unrelenting flow. A packed house roars as the Liverpudlian quintet, backs to the crowd, engage kinetically. Vocalist Kyle Stanley, a doctorate in dank memes, roars an introduction as Mike McCarroll’s bass shakes the deepest of catacombs. Glasses are raised in salute.
The searing alt-metal of ‘Broken Column’ suitably melts faces; early doors and the rammed ranks are right on point. Hands, aloft, wave from side to side as the AR wrecking ball ensures the sturdiest of marble colonnades are reduced to the finest of dust. Judging on the barometer of band merch on display there is no doubt of the high regard these five metallers are held in.
Clearly struck by the moment Kyle steps back struck in awe “Oh my god it’s so good to be back. Our first show of the year!” Guitarist Paddy Cummins furthers Kyle’s request for the crowd to singalong “Three words it’s simple – ‘Holding out for.’” The crowd need no encouraging, responding in a boisterous manner.
Wielding the hammer of the gods ‘Epiphany’ is worked industriously with guitarist, and self-title cremator of fretboards, Joe O’Sullivan’s dreadlocks flying. A raging asperity is harnessed to dazzling ends as Paddy nails an emphatic solo whilst drummer Jess Stanley, tucked out on stage left, lays down a tribal beat.
The prowling, predatory grandeur of ‘Prey’ stalks and prowls with depraved mannerisms. Upon the strength of uplifting thermals alternating shades of light and dark ascend straining at their leash. An opus possessing alt and prog elements the track is met with a loud approving cheer.
‘Alive Again’, deemed one of their loudest by Kyle, kicks off with monastical tones with Steve Rothery styled guitaring wandering across the aisles ahead of the cloisters getting on the receiving end of a right royal blasting. The striking imago moth bursts out of its pupa; this is a mellifluous artillery strike that caresses right under the chin. A complete biohazard of metallic proportions.
“When we played Rockstock and literally broke the floor” chuckles Kyle “When I say jump, I wanna see everyone!” Each track is an epic and ‘Heir To The Throne’ is certainly no exception, The Patriot bounces in unity. A fermenting fervour that is majestically controlled from the stage.
With a resounding Celtic feeling dispatched by Paddy the anthemic ‘Homecoming’ tops off the Richter scale. Amongst a host of tempestuous demons this track stands tall and proud, emotive to its white-hot nucleus the Patriot roof is well and truly blown for the second time in under a week by an opening act.
With the crowd well and truly warmed up Glaswegians Gun step forth launching right into ‘Backstreet Brothers’ the lead track from last year’s ‘The Calton Songs’ collective. With a wistful Stateside breeze, reminiscent of the likes of Petty, the ever-smiling Scots capture a reflection to carefree times of youth and that teenage camaraderie. Utterly rammed The Patriot rejoice; here is a band enjoying a resurgence. In a career spanning thirty plus years, from which we are treated to the first five of their eight top 40 singles, latterly Gun have decorously hit the top 20 with their 2017 studio recordings ‘Favourite Pleasure.’ A fine return to form.
In their classic resounding vein, the uplifting hook of ‘Seems Like I’m Losing You’ dismisses the requirement for gimmicks; good old fashioned songcraft wins the day. “Seems like more I give, the more I’m losing you” frontman, and one-time bassist, Dante Gizzi wryly sings.
Like a jet fighter switching on its afterburners Gun ready themselves, taxiing for take-off with the rousing ‘Here’s Where I Am’, replete with tribal tubthumping proffered by stand-in drummer Joe Lazarus. Dante’s brother Jools, out stage left, produces an emphatic nailed-on solo fret sparking wildly. The chorus bustles manically in time-honoured manner.
Heading back to where it all began with 1989’s ‘Taking On The World’ the crossover Stones / Who vibe of ‘Coming Home’ sees Jools produce his best Ronnie Woods licks. “Back in our favourite venue in Wales. You guys up for it?” Dante enquires.
With the kick of Quo’s ‘Red Sky’ and a nifty dash of ZZ Top riffing Gun despatch top 20 single ‘Don’t Say It’s Over.’ Unprompted the crowd sing the impassioned chorus as if tomorrow doesn’t matter. Suddenly, it’s 1994 and Gun are at the very height of their success, ‘Swagger’ has hit number 5 in the album charts and their stupendously rocking version of Cameo’s ‘Word Up’ has just won an MTV award for best cover version. The rapturous Patriot audience lap up every gritty riff. Many bands would hold back their signature tracks for the encore, not Gun such is their confidence in their material we’re only six tracks in and they land their highest charting single.
One W.O.R.D. is all that is necessary; I wrote ‘sublime’ at Stonedead two years ago and that still stands.
This brace from ‘Swagger’ is followed up by a coupling from the 1992 ‘Gallus’ album with the rootsy bayou feel of ‘Money To Burn’ – “We don’t normally play this one” observes Dante – pure magic. On this showing this track may well find a regular placing in the live setlist. As it does on the album so ‘Long Road’ follows, the animated barrier crowd lapping up every last ounce.
Fretboard afire Jools brings in the instantly recognisable strains of second single ‘Money (Everybody Loves Her).’ Taken back to the first time I saw Gun supporting fellow Scots Texas in the late 80s this is sheer retrospective pleasure right in the here and now. Out stage right guitarist Dave Aitken (Heavy Pettin’) has returned to the ranks he departed back in 1988. Getting down low he roars the chorus right back to those on the barrier.
Elevating the atmosphere ever higher the uproarious ‘Better Days’, the debut single ever the canticle, crashes in with the ensemble singing each and every word. Scorching a trail ‘Inside Out’ breaks into an unexpected burst of The Police’s ‘So Lonely.’ Jools cups his ear soaking in the audience feedback. The loudest cheer of the evening thus far greets.
A thundering ‘Steal Your Fire’ ensures the blue and white of the Scottish saltire flies high tonight. The loudest of loud cheers is reserved for the news that drummer Paul McManus had very recently received the all-clear following treatment for bowel cancer.
The Celtic resonance continues apace with ‘Shame On You’, harking back to a time when U2 actually rocked, paving the way for the ultimate in party anthems ‘(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!)’ to bring down the walls. Simply put Gun have rocked their collective arse off and brought the party right into the heart of the Valleys tonight.
Photography by Kelly Spiller for MPM