After reviewing a couple of CATS in SPACE albums, I jumped at the chance to finally see the band live the other night. I do a bit of research when writing and the bio for this band is just incredible, go to my review of ‘Diamonds’ for more details. After playing the album, which is ‘the best of’ the Cats, but remastered with new frontman Damien Edwards, I have become quite a fan. However, I digress, there are two support bands to see first of all and the openers are False Hearts.
Emma Hodgson is one of those female singers that controls and holds your attention for the entire set. Moody and deep thrusting vocals that emit a continuous amount of sublime and engrossing lyrics. FALSE HEARTS began their journey in 2016 and have been favourites with many, having supported some big names, as well as appearing at numerous festivals, since their early days. Tonight we see new guitarist Steve Balkwill for the first time and I have to say he’s given the band a fresh amount of oomph. Playing tracks from the two EPs ‘Dirty Little Soul’ and ‘Remedy’ and the newer single ’See Me Now’ I am impressed yet again with the outcome. So much strength in the writing and they deliver the songs with piles of resolute purpose. Highlights must be ‘Take Control’, ‘Cynical Love’ and the glorious ‘Remedy’.
VAMBO are new to me and being an Alex Harvey fan, I did need to ask how they picked on the name ‘Vambo’. Well, the link is quite simple, one of the band’s Dad was in Mud ( 70s Glam/Pop ) and Mud had a song on one of their albums called ‘Vambo Rools’ which, by the way is quite different in comparison to ‘Tiger Feet’ or ‘Dyna-Mite’. So the band decided Vambo was the winning entry. It was only afterwards that they learnt of Alex’s character, who appears in many SAHB tunes and is thought to represent his early days on the streets of Glasgow. Ok, that’s that sorted.
The London based quartet have landed quite an appropriate support, for their 70’s influenced brand of groove. You cannot escape the underlying reference to those psychedelic days, reminding me of discovering new music, in incense filled rooms with cigarette smoke languishing. Vambo strip it back to the wire, no over layered or complicated sequences, just basic rock but with loads of charisma. Frontman Jack Stiles is captivating, not only does his voice echo with all the reverb and passion of a young Coverdale, but he has the most generous amount of style and stage presence. ‘Running In Circles’ and ‘We’re Not The Same’ demonstrate that guitarist Pete Lance can really handle all that is demanded of him, offering solo’s that enrapture and add scorching grace. A ‘Led Zeppelin’ melody follows and the audience really appreciate the incorporation of known material. A clever move from a relatively unknown band to provide something that can be shared. ‘Down Little Mama’ continues the choices from the debut album of 2019 and it’s a moody stir with stacks of slinky twists and turns. ‘Fast Car’ is another with hunky chords and the drums of Steve Price are sharp and clear. ‘Why, Why, Why’ was released as a single and is a standout highlight, having a decent hook and a constant flow give it mass appeal and the instrumental phase breaks it up perfectly. They finish with a cover of Deep Purple’s ‘Burn’, rounding off a set that was 100% fuel filled entertainment. Vambo continue on this tour and then hit the road with Praying Mantis in October. I will see them next at the Gravity Festival in Cannock, however, as usual all appearances and more info can be found online.
Jack Stiles – Vambo
There is something enchanting about CATS in SPACE that is hard to put into words. Up until now I have only played their music and watched videos, their polished style is without any hard edges or fault lines and are songs that you can play over and over and still make gorgeous discoveries. So tonight, being my first time seeing them on stage, I’m full of anticipation and eager to hear some of my favourites, I’m beyond ecstatic if truth be known. This is the third night of the ‘Dive Into Atlantis’ tour after starting off in Lancaster and appearing at the Stonedead Festival in Newark and I’ve already heard positive feedback.
Damien Edwards – Cats in Space
’Too Many Gods’ is the first up and the atmosphere in the Robin 2, changes almost immediately. Watching the six piece is just a pleasure, as they carry on with ’Spaceship Superstar’ and ‘Revolution’ both from the ‘Atlantis’ album. New vocalist Damien has an immense charm about him as he leads through ‘Mr Heartache’ and ‘Only In Vegas’ which are older tracks from 2015. One thing that is striking is how well guitarist Greg Hart and bassist Jeff Brown can harmonise, which also adds to the visuals, as they do this effortlessly. I also admire guitar player Dean Howard who manages to create so many intricate phases, his solo’s are blistering. ’Scars’ is more delicate and gently rises with more beauty, as does ’September Rain’ with its velvety feel and stunning melody. With four studio albums out, there is a wide representation from each as we listen to the adhering ’Silver and Gold’ it’s one that really sticks with ‘Whoa, Whoa, Whoas’ in the chorus line. The Cats turn it up a notch during ‘Listen To The Radio’ with full backing vocals and Andy Stewarts fine keyboards. The show is in full on mode now, I am standing with friends but motionless as I strive to take it all in, it’s been a while since I watched a band who were so engrossing. I suppose it’s only with years of experience and having such a pedigree that they manage to perform this immaculately. ‘Atlantis’ is another building number with surreal vocals and soothing harmonies, that eventually lead into a Dean solo and more pulse. I did enjoy the concept ‘Day Trip To Narnia’ of 2019 and the story of Johnny Rocket. Part three of that epic is ’Thunder Of The Night’ and it’s excellent to hear it live, soaring again into the ionosphere. No let up, as the keyboards introduce ‘Mad Hatters Tea Party’ a more punchy track from ’Scarecrow’ and they feature even more strongly on the breathtaking ‘The Greatest Story Never Told’, before the drums of Steevi Bacon are let loose to raise the bar further. They leave the boards for a few minutes before returning for the encore ‘Hologram Man’ and rapturous applause.
I know I’ve rattled on a bit about how good ‘Cats In Space’ were, but every word was meant, it was lovely of them to come out afterwards to chat and sign merchandise as well. I learnt even more from Jeff about his days in Dumpy’s Rusty Nuts and Dean (Ex T’Pau) was as cool off stage as on it. As Krusher Joule led them away for a group photo, I managed to have a few last words with the ‘Vambo’ guys, another band I can’t wait to see again. What a flipping awesome evening.
See more photos of CATS in SPACE by Manny Manson HERE
Read my review of the new CATS In SPACE album ‘Diamonds’ – HERE ( due out 10/9/21 )