Last Friday saw This Town Needs Guns say their final farewell to lead-singer Stuart Smith in what was quite a special evening of live music. The night contained just as much optimistic gazing toward the future after Smith’s departure as it did nostalgic reflection on all that the four close friends had achieved with the vocalist and his incredibly versatile range at their disposal.
In what we all knew was going to be an evening of farewells, it made for a refreshing start to see a band who seem to be doing nothing but going from strength to strength at the moment, in Suffer Like G Did. The band adopt a vaguely similar style of intricate guitar driven math-rock to tonight’s headliners, but have developed a much more sharp and groove-based instrumental texture in place of the vastly more melodic presence that This Town Needs Guns adopt.
Tonight also saw fellow Oxford folk-rock trio Ute make their last ever performance together to a very punctual and appreciative Borderline audience. They begin with the sort of warm acoustic folk that characterises their mellow and gentile sound, an approach which is perhaps most unique in the very honest and noble manner in which it goes about achieving its purpose.
However, towards the end of the set a more fervent atmosphere manifests itself both onstage and in the crowd. This leads them to leave behind the innocence of their soft acoustic ambience, and lends itself well to the more raucous performances of their bigger, rockier songs towards the end of the set. They play themselves out with a moderately insane, zombie-themed version of ‘Innocent Tailor’ and leave behind the delay and sustain of guitar notes piercing through your ears from a now empty stage.
And so on we go, as This Town Needs Guns take to the stage for the last time with Stuart Smith to lead the way. They move steadily through an hour long set which contains all the big tracks you would expect them to play on such an occasion, and is punctuated by humble ramblings to the crowd that possess an understated and restrained sense of onstage emotion.
Crowd-pleasers such as ‘Baboon’, ‘Pig’, ‘Want to Come Back to my Room and Listen to Belle and Sebastian’ and ‘Maybe If I Sit Still’ all feature, and the flurry with which they are played is broken up halfway through by a quite beautifully performed round of ‘Zebra’. The delicate notes that are struck on a quiet Glockenspiel which the audience must crook their necks and strain to hear construct the most perfectly sombre of platforms for Smith’s soothing vocals to float over with remarkable eloquence.
It is, of course, probably most-fitting that this landmark set is closed with a quite sprightly and rousing performance of hit-track ‘26 is Dancier than 4’, that asserts a very feel-good spirit amongst the group and even the now-departed front-man. As the man himself is keen to take a moment’s pause to state, ‘Though this is my last show, it is by no means the end of This Town Needs Guns’, before inviting new lead vocalist Henry Tremain onstage for a final re-run of ‘Maybe If I Sit Still’.
With a newly written track played tonight and more on the cards for the future, this certainly isn’t the end of the road for the quartet, but as you left the venue behind to return once more to the darkened streets of Central London, you knew that tonight’s celebratory show certainly did lay to rest the end of a significant chapter in the band’s history.
The new look This Town Needs Guns have announced an eight show UK Tour in December.