Review: This Is The Kit’s large and affable UK tour closer at the Beacon (3/2/24)

Tonight’s homecoming show has Bristol-based musician Kate Stables and her project This is the Kit arrive at the final stop of a lengthy UK and Ireland tour. While previous shows have seen them perform in the relative modesty of 500-600 capacity venues, the sell-out Beacon audience of 2000 people is a considerable leap forward in the realm of gig-going spectacle. Any attendant nerves that may accompany such disparities in audience stats seem to have evaded Stables as she insouciantly interrupts the beginnings of opener ‘Goodbye Bite’ to acknowledge two familiar faces taking their place within the crowd.

The opening tune captures the group’s subdued and thoughtful essence; the subtle march of drums, delicate arpeggios and a hushed flugelhorn solo. ‘Doomed or More Doomed’ highlights Stables’ penchant for repeated lyrics (“When are we gonna get there, when are they?” is delivered four times at the song’s beginning). There’s also an artful lyrical moment with Stables use of the phrase “emotional buckaroo.”

Though there are up to eight performing musicians on tonight’s stage – lead guitar, a second guitar/piano, drums, bass, Stables switching between guitar and banjo, and a three pronged brass section of trombone, saxophone and flugelhorn – there remains a sustained delicacy to the sound. ‘Found Out’ is perhaps the evening’s most sonically imposing as the triumvirate of brass becomes its central focus.

The evening’s setlist leans heavily into the material found in latest album Careful Of Your Keepers. The galloping ‘Scabby Head and Legs’ is led by Stables’ gossamer guitar picking, then elevated by a spacey lead guitar solo. As its music video plays on the large screens at the back of the stage, ‘Inside Outside’ is built around an infectious bassline, atop which a hattrick of picked guitars effectively interweave.

The banjo propelled ‘Take You To Sleep’ is rife with Stables’ repeating lyricism (Give me your hand, give me your hand/Give me your hand, take back your hand”). At best, this approach is an effective tension builder, at worst it has one impatient for a lyrical diversion.

Stables then introduces a solo spot and, despite her description of an indecipherable response of bellowed titles in Falmouth last night, she incites the audience to offer up song requests. She appears to land of her own choice of song – 2015’s ‘Nits’ – and delivers an arresting solo performance. The lack of sonic distraction allows one to fully appreciate the twin attractions of a sweet electric guitar tone and the hushed elegance of Stables’ vocal.

“This is a really big gig for us” admits Stables, although her friendly demeanour and apparent ease with an audience is most likely the result of being something of a veteran in supporting better known acts like The National (whom they will again be supporting at a large Eden Project show this summer). During ‘This Is What You Did’ – featuring an appealing call and response motif of guitar and flugelhorn – an audience member fainting to the ground induces some animated activity amidst some in the standing section. It’s a temporary and minor incident, and Stables gives kudos to the crowd and staff for getting it sorted. Frankly, this could be the tamest gig ever to result in a passed out punter.

It could be the size of the venue or the fact that we’re here on a Saturday night but This Is The Kit’s reserved brand of folk leaves a yearning for a certain gear shift. To be fair, ‘No Such Thing’ features something very close to a rocking guitar solo and because 2000 people singing in a room can do “some spooky things,” there’s a pleasant crowd participation moment during ‘Dibs.’

Towards the end of the night, there’s an amusing moment where Stables confirms her unavailability to attend a local ‘Mothers In Music’ event in March, and ironically flicks V-signs as she gleefully boasts that she will be attending an IDLES concert in Paris with her daughter. Obviously, one doesn’t expect Stables to have rampaged around the Beacon stage like Joe Talbot but the thought of an IDLES gig almost feels a little too far removed from a merely affable evening of music.

Scott Hammond