I have been a Thunder fan for more years than I care to remember, in fact I was a fan of the guys right back in the big trousered and big haired days of Terraplane, which is showing my age here. So, I was looking for tonight’s show to be another good night with the ultimate brit rock party band. If you can sense a ‘but’ coming you may well be correct, however before we get to that point there was the small matter of tonight’s support in the shape of Cats In Space.
Cats In Space caused a bit of a buzz a couple of years back with the release of their debut album ‘Too Many Gods’ which garnered some rave reviews. Slightly quirky 70’s pop rock is the best way I can describe the band’s sound which is reinforced by the guys taking to the stage to the theme tune of The Sweeney.
All the band are time served, seasoned pros who have been playing in various bands for years. The performance was well polished and musically accomplished and above all highly entertaining. Frontman Paul Manzi has a great voice and an easy going manner and he engaged with the crowd from the first bars of opening song ‘Too Many Gods’.
The bulk of the set was taken from the first album unsurprisingly but the guys did play a new track from their forthcoming album entitled ‘The Mad Hatters Tea Party’ which sounded excellent. Track of the set for me was ‘Greatest Story Never Told’ which was a real tour de force laden with multi part harmonies, great keyboards and twin guitar solos, it had everything.
The set was rounded off with the band’s first single ‘Five Minute Celebrity’ which closed an all too brief set, in fact my wife commented she could have happily watched them all night which is praise indeed! Definitely a band we will be checking out again in the near future.
All we needed now was Thunder to take the party to the next level and rock us to the core. The party which was served up however proved to be a bit of a sad cheese and wine affair with flat Prosecco accompanied by a dodgy stereo…
‘No One Gets Out Alive’ from the band’s latest album ‘Rip It Up’ kicked things off in the right fashion, upbeat and bouncy, but right from the off the sound was a bit muddy with a very harsh guitar sound. I hoped this would improve and it did to a certain extent but it never fully cleared, either with or without earplugs which can sometimes make a big difference. It may have been just my position in the hall but since I was almost sitting on the sound engineer’s knee I don’t think so!
Dodgy sound aside, the set continued with ‘The Enemy Inside’ and crowd favourite ‘River Of Pain’. Danny Bowes still has a great voice after all these years and can belt out the tunes like a good ‘un, what was lacking though was a bit of his old sparkle and audience rapport.
As the set progressed the balance between upbeat numbers and longer bluesier numbers tipped in favour of the latter which made the set drag in places. There is no doubt that Luke Morley is a great guitarist but his frequent elongated solo spots stage front, with the rest of the band huddled at the back as bit players, again didn’t really fit with my previous Thunder live experiences. To be honest if I was Ben Matthews and Chris Childs I would be less than pleased with this development.
There were a number of high points as well as lows though, with a band as good as Thunder even an off night is a decent show! ‘Resurrection Day’ and a double blast of ‘Backstreet Symphony’ and ‘Higher Ground’ had me singing along.
One set highlight which never misses the mark is ‘Love Walked In’ with the crowd singing along with gusto. ‘I Love You More Than Rock n Roll’ brought the main set to a rocking close with the majority of the crowd dancing along. The guys returned for three encores which were rounded off with the traditional blast through ‘Dirty Love’, still a crowd pleaser 27 years on.
This was a gig of two halves tonight with the surprise of how good Cats In Space were and the disappointment of a lack lustre performance from a band I know can do so much better. Having said that, I did read a comment from someone else who had been at the show who stated it was the best Thunder performance he had witnessed. Just goes to prove that one man’s flat Prosecco is another man’s vintage Champagne. As Thunder once said ‘Welcome To The Party’!
Review by Dave Wilson
Photoss by Johann Wierzbicki
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