Gig Review: 'This Is The Kit'. Marine Theatre, Lyme Regis. 11/01/2018
We arrived at The Marine Theatre after a starlit walk along the beach, calm waves lapping the shore in the dark, Lyme Regis’ iconic ammonite streetlamps lighting our way.
Ascending the steps around the front of the theatre it was too dark to view the waves crashing into the walls below, but I imagined the many footsteps who had taken that path before; from gig goers in the 1960s flocking to see Fleetwood Mac, the American forces who used the space for a canteen in WW2 and even further back all the visitors to the healing baths – the original design for the building when it opened in 1806!
A warm babble floated through the foyer, welcoming us into the bustling theatre. When Gabby became director of the Theatre last year one hope was that people would travel over from Bridport just as Lyme Regis folk often came to gigs at Bridport’s Electric Palace – her wish was certainly granted! The crowd waiting for the music was a lovely mix of familiar faces from Lyme and Bridport, so many friends catching up as support act Tobias Ben James took to the stage.
An intimate and passionate songwriter, Tobias performed songs from his new biographical album ‘A Polyphonic Life’, lulling the crowd who softened their voices to hushed murmurs throughout the set, which ended with his new single, the more rousing ‘Burning Low’.
There was a second support, the ethereal Emma Gatrill who is also a member of TITK on the current tour. Her delicate harp playing was mesmorising, tender vocals easing us in with ‘Cast Out’ from her 2017 album Cocoon. The rippling ‘Josephine’ from her first album followed, and whilst I was thinking to myself how similar she sounds to Björk at times, I realised she was performing a haunting cover of ‘Hyperballad’. A musically minimal set, leading the way gently into our headiners’ arrival.
Hot off a tour with Canadian’s The National, This is the Kit kicked off their UK tour in Southampton the night before, and lead singer Kate Stables greeted us with warm, fresh energy.
They opened with ‘Easy on the Thieves’ from their latest album Moonshine Freeze, Stables’ intricate banjo plucking crisp in comparison to the soft vocals and subtle brass notes from the rest of the band.
Gatrill, who’s not only supporting but is IN the band, demonstrated her multi-instrumental talents providing deep woodwind harmonies alongside the trumpet. Rozi Plain was by Stables’ side, with her distinctive vocals and bass style beautifully harmonizing and emphasising each of the rootsy, unique tracks.
‘Silver John’ followed, from TITK’s 2015 album Bashed Out, with its steady rising progression in the chorus sweeping over the crowd. After another track from Bashed Out, Stables transitioned back to Moonshine Freeze with ‘Empty No Teeth’, poetic in form, almost ancient in sound with its repetitive, chant-like rhythms.
‘Moonshine Freeze’ is a highlight for me, with goosebumps prickling as Stables and Plain overlap the vocals in an incredible live echo effect towards the end. The simplistic, repeated lyrics compliment the gradual build of up sounds as the full band are introduced throughout the verses; the trumpet and bass clarinet bringing a triumphant positivity to the end.
Stables brought her banjo back to the stage for ‘White Ash’, decidedly more folk-esque especially when performed alongside Moonshine Freeze’s more varied, at times stark, selection of storytelling songs.
Ahead of the encore ‘Hotter Colder’ got the crowd foot tapping and head-nodding along to the lyrical ghost story, ending with a climatic full band instrumental. ‘Solid Grease’ nearly stopped Stables in her tracks as a cough took hold, but her professionalism and pure vocal endurance carried her through without a blip! She carried beautiful, descending melody cleanly across our heads, soothing us with her controlled precision masking the bleak violence of the lyrics.
Throughout the set Stables engaged naturally with the audience, with a familiarity that created a really intimate vibe in what was already a pretty involved gig. The size of the Marine Theatre means wherever you stand, or sit for those in the upstairs bar, you are in amongst it and connected with the performers.
Overall they played very faithfully to the album versions of each track, although the power of the tracks performed live is an experience second to none. Catch them when you can.
AUTHOR: Hannah Waite, Bridport Music