As we near the end of 2019, and indeed another decade, Cats In Space should be cherished. In fact, our year was bookended by the band, an appearance at Giants Of Rock in January and a “Christmas in Narnia” tour in December. And Cats In Space could really become as traditional at Christmas as turkey, stuffing and – now – Grandad farting in front of an Amazon Echo.
With new vocalist Mark Pascall, they’ve had two headline tours this year, a new album (with a daring 27 minute concept piece) and several singles. The band may well be an anachronism in these cynical times, not least in the music industry. They write really good songs with memorable choruses, they are a superb bunch of musicians, they don’t take themselves too seriously and they allow those of a certain age to connect with their own musical past. In fact it’s all these ingredients that Dave Wilson, our Live Editor, defined (in 2017) thus: “(they) have that special ‘something’ in spades”.
Yes, they are evocative of all that was good about pop/rock in the seventies and eighties and it may be that we have to ask “will the real Cats In Space please stand up?” But if the band could be beamed down in some sort of time/space continuum vortex they would merge seamlessly with their heroes. And that’s probably the highest praise that you could give them.
And that authenticity extends to the physical releases. The Christmas single for example was available in Satsuma coloured vinyl whilst an extended CD version included extra tracks. And, yes, there was double pack vinyl inside a Cats-mas tin!! It really transports us back to those glorious days when there was money in the industry, and hope, rather then cynicism.
Perhaps the only reason the band didn’t make any of our reviewers’ “Best of ” selections this year (terrible oversight though, it has to be said) is that after only four years we could even be taking these guys and their music for granted. The musical grass is always greener when on the other side there are artists less derivative and less shamefully retro. We should mention that the band did make our 2017 listing for “top album” of the year with ‘Scarecrow’ well represented tonight by ‘September Rain’, ‘Timebomb’, ‘Scars’ and ‘Jupiter Calling’ .
This gig – at the end of their tour – was a bit of a Christmas coup for the Tivoli, one of the best “club” venues in the north-west of England, if not the UK in general. Many a “first division” band have stopped off here to service a rabid rock audience and the diary is getting well booked up for 2020.
But, back to the Cats. They’ll be first division very soon. This gig was essentially the highlights of a story that started back in 2015 and peppered with astute observations such as ‘Hologram Man’ and ‘Silver And Gold’. Mark Pascall has fitted in seamlessly and will no doubt grow in the role whilst Greg Hart, Jeff Brown (and Dean Howard) provide excellent harmony vocal support throughout.
But they saved the best for last. ‘Greatest Story Never Told’ is a song of epic proportions fuelled by Andy Stewart’s rich orchestration and which conjures up not only John Miles’ ‘Music’ but some long forgotten Bond theme. Presaged by Steevi Bacon’s drum solo, the guilty pleasure that is ‘Thunder In The Night’ allowed eighties disco kings (and queens) sheer indulgence whilst the sentiments behind ‘My Kind Of Christmas’ – a perennial classic in the making – are admirable.
You wonder, what next for the band? Will they persist with pastiche or fashion something more individual? I’ll avoid the usual closing purr-fect epithets and just add that Cats In Space have reached stellar heights this year and, er, are bound for the stars. Mi-aow!
Support tonight came from Hand Of Dimes, the band fronted by one-time Skin vocalist Neville MacDonald. Their brand of rock and roll is in the Quireboys vein and MacDonald was evidently pleased to receive a warm response from essentially a “home crowd”.
Cats In Space setlist:
Johnny Rocket/ Too Many Gods/ Narnia/ September Rain/ Mr.Heartache/ Timebomb/ Scars/ Jupiter Calling/ Silver And Gold/ Hologram Man/ Greatest Story Never Told/ Five Minute Celebrity
Encore: Thunder In The Night/My Kind of Christmas
Review and photos by David Randall
David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 30 August 2020.
UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 8 September 2020.
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