Tailgunner / UK Metal Sensations Are Frantic In Cardiff

I’ve got to choose my words carefully here. The last time Tailgunner played Fuel, in a triumphant debut, my review prompted a tirade of early morning abuse from a disgruntled person who clearly misunderstood what I was saying.

Tailgunner

Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff – 18 April 2024

Words And Photography: Paul Hutchings

On the first night of their final tour to promote their debut album Guns For Hire, Tailgunner arrive following a high-profile support slot around Europe with U.D.O. It’s a jaunt that has cemented their status as one of the most highly rated bands around.

Tailgunner - Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff - 18 April 2024
Tailgunner – Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff – 18 April 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

Pictures of full venues and beaming smiles from that tour have flooded social media, and according to guitarist Rhea Thompson, who I caught up with briefly prior to the show, it was a valuable as well enjoyable experience.

Tonight, it’s evident that Tailgunner have an itch that needs scratching.

It’s the itch to get back on stage, and despite their lengthy journey to get to Cardiff [this band are located all over the UK], they are pumped and fired up.

Tailgunner - Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff - 18 April 2024
Tailgunner – Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff – 18 April 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

Anticipation builds as Zorba The Greek blasts through the small venue’s speakers, and then the band are racing onto the stage, Iron Maiden style, and bursting into Guns For Hire. It’s a frenzied start that whips the audience hard.

The energy in the pit cannot match that on stage, for bassist Thomas Hewson is possessed, racing from side to side, throwing shapes and climbing the front monitors to hang on the lighting bars. He’s Steve Harris and Pete Way balled into one furious ball of power.

Tailgunner - Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff - 18 April 2024
Tailgunner – Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff – 18 April 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

It seems the rest of the band have worked their choreography well, for guitarists Zach Salvani and Rhea Thompson navigate around their bassist with ease. Apart from a couple of very near misses, which almost resulted in a black eye from flailing guitar necks.

When Hewson steps back, vocalist Craig Cairns demonstrates the progress this band have made, with an assured performance that oozes a confidence that has grown since their last show here six months ago. And then there’s new drummer Jani Pasnen, who brings his own style behind the kit. He looks like he’s been there for ages, not months.

Tailgunner - Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff - 18 April 2024
Tailgunner – Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff – 18 April 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

There are a few niggly points. After a crushing White Death, the extended guitar dual work out of Grieg’s In The Hall Of The Mountain King comes too soon and slows the momentum.

Maybe that is the idea before the band ramp it back up to 11 with a slightly out-of-control version of Painkiller. This is personal preference, but I would like them to put the Priest song away and never play it again.

I’m in the minority though, for the crowd lap it up.

Tailgunner - Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff - 18 April 2024
Tailgunner – Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff – 18 April 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

Tailgunner roar through the entire Guns For Hire album, with the tempo rarely slowing. There’s the clever Welsh flag with Tailgunner emblazoned on it, which earned a cheer in October and does the same this time around.

The young fans in the crowd with their hugely oversized Tailgunner tour shirts are lapping it up, one of the venue’s great security team hoisting one of the kids on his shoulders for the entire set.

This is what makes the Metal fans of the future and it’s totally endorsed by me.

Tailgunner - Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff - 18 April 2024
Tailgunner – Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff – 18 April 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

By the time we hit Crash Dive, we’re into the encores, and the place is a heaving, sweaty mess, but one that is wearing great big smiles. It’s been quite the show, and another reminder, if that was needed, that with the right songs on the second album, Tailgunner could really step up a couple of levels in the next 12-18 months.

They have some big shows this summer, with Bloodstock and Stonedead among the festival slots.

Tailgunner are made for the bigger stage, so let’s see what they can do there.

Tailgunner - Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff - 18 April 2024
Tailgunner – Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff – 18 April 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk
Tailgunner - Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff - 18 April 2024
Tailgunner – Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff – 18 April 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk
Tailgunner - Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff - 18 April 2024
Tailgunner – Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff – 18 April 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk
Tailgunner - Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff - 18 April 2024
Tailgunner – Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff – 18 April 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk
Tailgunner - Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff - 18 April 2024
Tailgunner – Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff – 18 April 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

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