fri 21/06/2024

This Is The Kit, Barbican review - familiarity and charm | reviews, news & interviews

This Is The Kit, Barbican review - familiarity and charm

This Is The Kit, Barbican review - familiarity and charm

A beautifully orchestrated end to a tour

Coming at the end of a long year’s gigging, This Is The Kit’s performance at the Barbican on Saturday night was an excellent demonstration of the whole band’s familial, compelling musicianship.

Support came from The Raincoats’ Gina Birch (and friends), whose politely raucous set was backgrounded by films that she had made during her art school days – the first of which, she told us, is featured in Women in Revolt!, currently on show at Tate Britain (a still from it is actually the poster for the show). Gina and her two bandmates played a rousing collection of songs, pulling no punches and with themes ranging from the assertion of her loud bass playing, feminism, and the reggae heavy ‘Dig Down’s criticism of basement excavations in west London. The latter was particularly enjoyable (not falling into the trap of white appropriation of black music) and had a nice resonance with west London’s musical history (Notting Hill carnival, The Clash etc.). Perhaps one criticism could be that although Birch and her band’s set was great, it didn’t wholly feel that it fitted the mood of a crowd that had come to sedately watch This Is The Kit. Whilst the Barbican’s concert hall is a wonderful space, it does at times feel that it makes its audience too staid and very unwilling to get up and dance, something that This Is The Kit’s Kate Stables attempted to rectify to a few times (albeit gently).

This Is The Kit came onstage eight strong, including a wonderful three-man horn section, and Stables immediately took her socks off, saying she was too hot. This set the tone for the rest of the show, which felt charmingly informal, considered but also casual. The beauty of this band’s songs (shown here to their best advantage) are how they feel slow, folky, and relaxed, but lure you in with frankly amazing, often absurdist lyrics (that could be but are never cringey), and beautifully formed counterpoints, hooks, and precisely engineered orchestrations. This is in part due to the talents of each member, whether semi-permanent or not, including Rozi Plain, the sort of second woman of the band, who has her own successful solo career.

The band moved through songs old and new, tripping and running around one another perfectly with complicated melodies and lyrics. Track’s from this year’s Gruff Rhys produced ‘Careful of your Keepers’ mingled with those from ‘Off Off On’, released in 2020’s pandemic chaos, during which, Stables told us, they last performed in the Barbican to an audience sitting with gaps of three seats between each person. Other tracks resurfaced from their back catalogue, now running to over fifteen years, ‘Moonshine Freeze’ a particular crowd favourite. At points, Stables picked up her banjo, with a playfulness and ease that she seems to bring to all the music that she and her band play. She encouraged us all to sing along (quite tunefully) to ‘Dibs’, which seemed to break down the formality of the setting well.

Backing the music, as with Gina Birch’s set, was a screen showing various short films and visualisations, brought together live and sometimes produced by Pete McPartlan, whom she thanked in a pause between songs. His contributions were also charming, with the occasional flashing “oops!” put up when either he or someone else tripped up or needed to retune.

The set came to an end with the soft, lullaby-like ‘Keep Going’, with a blissed out, lilting guitar, capturing the familiar, gentle mode of their performance as a whole. Then, as a bonus to those who remained, calling for requests, Stables forward-rolled back onstage to perform ‘Earthquake’ solo, a beautiful, complex, early song, a wonderful round up to a show given by a band whose warmth and skill was a delight to witness.


The band moved through songs old and new, tripping and running around one another perfectly with complicated melodies and lyrics


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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