This Is The Kit
- Emma Gatrill
They come, hands buried deep in pockets and shoulders hunched against the biting grip of the January cold. Seeking warmth and welcome, they pack in tight upstairs at Leaf for a sold-out show, one of many on this tour, from THIS IS THE KIT. Caught in their moment, and riding the crest of a wave created by superb new album Moonshine Freeze, the band’s return to the city feels a lot like a family occasion. And while This Is The Kit holds Kate Stables at its centre, just watching the interaction between these innately talented musicians enhances that familial feeling.
This latest record sees Stables’ wildly eclectic influences honed into a perfectly positioned, cohesive whole. From folk to Afrobeat, blues to shiny pop, it is an album so naturally written and delivered that there is no surprise in the fact the gig sold out so quickly, or that people are so plainly delighted to be here.
The evening begins with an all-too-short set from EMMA GATRILL. Her voice, graced with a delicate fragility, carries on waves of harp, piano and bass organ, with Marcus Hamblett’s genteel assistance on guitar. Shockingly for Liverpool, the simple prettiness of their set hushes the excitable crowd into reverential, pin-drop silence, as songs such as Cocoon, Cast Out and a wonderful cover of Björk’s Hyperballad warm the room and the hearts of the eager crowd.
Stables takes the stage alone for the opener of Easy On The Thieves, circular rolls of banjo lying under her lilting vocal, borne with the inflections of both her British background and her current French home. With the gentle underpinning of Rozi Plain’s bass and the sparse, spacious drums of James Whitby Cole, whose playing is essential yet understated throughout, songs such as Bulletproof, one of Moonshine Freeze’s greatest moments, are given room to move, and lend a sense of space to Stables’ vocals.
The new album’s title track, with its insistent, loose funk rhythm, all high-end bass and stripped-back drums, is a true highlight of the set. Stables’ vocals dance freely over the top, and Hamblett and Gatrill’s warm brass stylings add flavour.
Two Pence Piece is another album highlight. Set across a bare groove and highlighted with Neil Smith’s spaghetti western guitar strains and close harmonies, it features the intuitive opening line “Blood in my mouth, tasted of coin”. As with so much of Stables’ writing, it pulls the crowd in, involving them in the stories as participants rather than merely observers.
The earthy, woody dance vibes of Magic Spell, from 2015’s Bashed Out LP, has the crowd light on their feet, with Smith’s African guitar flavours, and Plain’s punchy bassline throbbing its way through. It’s in moments such as these that Stables’ well-tuned ability to fluidly arrange the perfect band around herself for each album shines through once again.
Hotter Colder carries a sense of the campfire, smoky and personal and looped around a great riff from Stables’ ancient Hofner guitar, with the brass bringing that added French jazz vibe. It’s another highlight in a night and a set of real highlights, a wonderful, warm celebration of a fine band; a friendly welcome to all their listeners, the family they haven’t yet met but surely will.