AAA Inside Out: Gun return to Ireland 07-08/10/15
Since the release of ‘Frantic’ back in March, Gun have been breaking in the new material on the road. The band kicked off the current tour last week, but found themselves back in Ireland this week.
They granted Shaun Neary Access All Areas to both Dublin and Belfast shows, and here’s what he had to say.
It would be almost too easy to start this this piece off by exclaiming that Gun are back, especially as this is their first time visiting Dublin in just about 20 years since the Swagger tour.
An ill fated show to degree that saw then vocalist, Mark Rankin storming off the stage 30 minutes into the set. The band would split two years later but reformed in 2008 with Little Angels vocalist, Toby Jepson recording the ‘Popkiller’ EP. Jepson would depart the following year. Bassist, Dante Gizzi, then took over lead vocal duties and after a few personnel changes and a new release of the ‘Frantic’ album back in March. Gun have been back for quite a while, leaving a few people wondering, “How is this going to work?”.
© Shaun Neary. All images are subject to copyright laws. All rights reserved.
While the current line have been a unit for a short while by comparison to the bands career, it works quite well. A lot of effort is put in during soundcheck for last minute practice for the endings of some of the songs to ensure that there isn’t a note out of place. Every member agreeing on the musical side of things to ensure at they can deliver the performance to leave the audience on a high.
The first show of the two Irish shows is south of the border at Dublin’s Academy 2. This is as intimate as it can get in terms of a Dublin venue, sometimes referred to as ‘Dublin’s Dungeon’ as its one of the darkest venues in the city, being a basement venue. Complete with ‘pillars of death’ to divide the crowd and obstruct views at every turn. By proxy, this can present a challenge to many bands as the punters tend to veer towards the bar and camp there.
That doesn’t happen though as guitarist, Johnny McGlynn immediately motions everyone to get a bit closer. It takes a total of three seconds before the bar staff can take a seat as a result. Kicking off with ‘Let It Shine’, one of the newer tracks from ‘Frantic’, it’s evident that despite some old school shirts worn by the audience, the support of the new album is there. The songs are far from unfamiliar territory. Dante then immediately blasts into ‘Don’t Say It’s Over’, which gets a few people up the front of the venue bouncing.
After some sound issues, with Johnny requesting his volume to be raised, the band are then able to kick the show into high gear. A nice mix of earlier and current material goes down well with the crowd, especially the classic tracks from ‘Taking On The World’ (which received a 25th anniversary reissue last year) such as ‘Better Days’, ‘Money (Everybody Loves Her)’ and ‘Something To Believe In’, all of which go down treat for some in the audience who may not have heard these songs performed live in twenty years.
Dante takes a few moments out to acknowledge the work of the Marie Curie Foundation, a charity who provide night nurse care for the terminally ill, of which the proceeds of their latest single ‘Every1’s A Winner’, a cover of the 1978 Hot Chocolate classic as their tribute to Errol Brown (who passed away back in May as a result of liver cancer) are donated to. As good as the studio version is, it pales by comparison to the ear popping, loud, live version, and has to be heard to be truly appreciated.
During ‘Labour Of Life’, the set is marred with more sound problems, as Dante removes the ear bits and continues to blast on with the song. Both Joolz and Johnny are at the point of attempting to outdo each other in the guitar solo competitions they’re clearly trying to playfully one up each other. During this stage, Johnny’s solo gets so intense that his trademark hat flew off of his head. While Dante takes advantage of the venues low stage by swinging out off the beam on multiple occasions. In a classic case of leadership by example, members of the audience also attempt to do the same.
As the solos for ‘Inside Out’ wrap up, the song merges nicely into a few bars of The Police classic ‘So Lonely’, it was only a matter of time before the one cover that everyone really wanted to hear, the one that really brought Gun to the forefront as the mid 90’s loomed. They weren’t disappointed as ‘Word Up’ was belted out with more roof swinging and more bombastic onstage antics. The band wrap the set up with an encore consisting of ‘Welcome to the real world’ and ‘Shame on You’.
With the band previously having played at the old Point Theatre (now renovated and renamed the 3Arena) back in 1992 opening up for Def Leppard and the Tivoli (now District 8) in 1995, the Academy 2 is a noticeable drop in size, which is unfortunate because despite numerous personnel changes over the years, Gun still know how to deliver a big show atmosphere even on stages the size of ping pong tables. Tonight was a prime example of this, between the small crowd, small venue and sound issues throughout the show. Gun’s live shows still remain as one of rocks best kept secrets. Dante exclaimed at the end of the show that they would like to come back, and it’s a show worth getting your butt off the couch to take the trip in to see when that does happen.
Photos & Review: Shaun Neary
From Dublin, we head north of the border to Belfast’s Limelight 2 which plays hosts to Gun’s second Irish date of the tour. Compared to stripped down affair at the Academy 2 in Dublin, The Limelight 2 is lit up like a Christmas tree, complimented with the band’s logo backdrop clearly indication that Belfast is already winning on production alone. Even before the soundcheck got under way, there was that look and feel of a rock and roll show.
It took a little time for people to make their way to the venue, but this doesn’t become a problem for long as people who had their tickets for months in advance weren’t going to miss this show. Gun had last appeared at this venue in November 2009, when Toby Jepson was fronting the band, which would have been about a week or two before ‘Popkiller’ had been released. Needless to say, there were a few people chomping at the bit awaiting the return of Gun in Belfast.
The setlist is identical to the Dublin show, so it’s a good mix of material from ‘Taking On The World’ and ‘Frantic’. The Belfast audience are somewhat shy as it takes them a good half way through the set before they make their way down to the very front to get a closer look. Which is unlike Belfast as they’re usually at the barrier within minutes of doors opening. It doesn’t make any effort in hindering the performance from the band, and unlike Dublin, they don’t seem to be dodging obstacles such as sound problems.
A natural disaster of sorts did strike earlier in the day when Dante Gizzi’s voice began to cave in on him, thankfully for the people of Belfast, it wasn’t enough to stop the show as he medicated it during the gig, along with the aid of the crowd filling in occasionally (which they were only too happy to do).
Over the course of the past 48 hours, Gun have proved a number of things, the first being that Dante Gizzi, who was once the bands bassist and backing vocalist has made more than just a smooth transition over to being not only the singer, but to being a front man. Ditching the axe and working on and off the microphone stand has become second nature to him at this point, which isn’t an easy feat as it takes more than just 3-4 years for some people to get this right. Gizzi appears to have made this one look easy.
Not only can he sing, but if you were to close your eyes, the resemblance to former vocalist, Mark Rankin’s voice is staggering when playing the older songs live. Gizzi’s voice giving way doesn’t come across as such from the other side of the barrier, only he’d confessed it, many probably would not have noticed. In saying that, that alone takes a lot of guts to admit to your paying audience that you’re not 100%.
The Limelight 2 is a small venue, populated with a small, yet very appreciative crowd tonight. Though the band did have the luxury of a somewhat bigger and higher stage to play with, like the Dublin show, this was a gig that was well worth getting your butt out of the seat to see. If you’re reading this wondering if you missed out, then I’m afraid you did. The band return to their native Scotland and from there will be playing more than a handful of dates across the UK before they fly out to Spain and Portugal for some sun, sea, and a handful of gigs. I’d strongly recommend catching one of these dates if you want a good night of rock. Just bring ear plugs, they like it loud.