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Saturday 16 September 2017

A View From The Back Of The Room: Cats In Space (Review By Paul and Matt)

Cats In Space, Hand Of Dimes & Kaato, The Globe Cardiff

Paul's view:

It's rare that a support band attracts me more than the headliners but when Hand Of Dimes, the blues soaked hard rock South Walians were announced as main support for Cats in Space, it was a given that I'd be there.

First up were the tour support to the Cats for their entire U.K. Tour, Australian outfit Kaato (8) whose impressive track record includes having Mitch Malloy in their ranks for their debut release. The band were crammed onto the stage, with no room to let rip but that didn't stop them delivering 30 minutes of sleazy rock. Their sound merges Zeppelin, The Black Crowes and countrymen Airbourne in a dirty low hipped swagger. Frontman Kurt Lowry captivating with his showmanship, and what a voice.

Clean, strong and absolutely breathtaking, hitting notes at times that he shouldn't have been allowed to get anywhere near. Alongside Lowry, bassist Mika Nuutinen, former Inglorious guitarist Jack Edwards, guitarist Hunter Lovan and drummer Mitch Pike all put in excellent shifts in the cramped conditions with Pike probably further forward than usual allowing his animalistic drumming a fair showcase. It was Lowry's stunning voice that captured most of the attention. The penultimate song was a freestyle cover of Larry Williams' 1957 hit Bony Maronie allowed all of the band to demonstrate their chops and really engaged the audience. A great reception for a very enjoyable and talented band.

If there was one highlight at the rain sodden Steelhouse Festival this year then it was Hand Of Dimes (9). Their quite brilliant Friday night set was the main reason we toughed it out over the weekend with their magnificent slot with Bernie Marsden simply fantastic. The band stepped in for King King on the Sunday and put in another great shift. The band are tighter than a Scotsman at the bar and even though they only had 30 minutes their set was worth the admission fee on its own. The rhythm section of Mark Maybry and David Stephenson set the pace, Neil Garland added some soothing keyboards and sweet harmonica whilst Colin Edwards lead guitar was soulful and measured in all the right places. 

Of course, the focal point of the band as always was Ynysybwl's favourite son, Nev MacDonald, whose performance every time is just astonishing. Why this man isn't playing to capacity stadiums every night is a mystery to me. His vocals are amongst the best in the British hard rock field, gravelled when needed but usually much smoother. He has no trouble with the higher notes, as was seen on the beautiful Jacob's Ladder, and he rocked with ease on the harder edged Guilty and Bad Reputation. With a partisan crowd shouting good natured abuse at every opportunity, this was a fun set but so professional. The 30 minutes disappeared quickly with the fabulous Sail On bringing the house down. A Welsh institution, Hand Of Dimes should be seen at every opportunity. I can't wait for the next time. *Special thanks to Mark Maybry for the guest list invite as well. Many thanks!*

Matt's View:

Paul and Mrs H had to leave after Hand Of Dimes due to dog related issues so it was left to me to review the headliners. With Hand Of Dimes getting a raucous ovation from the partisan crowd, the headliners had a big task ahead of them but with the theme from The Sweeney blaring out of the PA the band took to the stage decked out like a proper rock band with lounge coats, crazy hats and lots of denim and leather. They sauntered on stage with beaming smiles and kicked things off with Too Many Gods the title track of their first album, what hits you as Cats In Space (9) start a set is just how perfect their sound is, slickly mixed to really compliment the band's colossal melodic rock stylings. Steevi Brown's percussive power is instantly impactful he drives the band along from the rear of stage bashing the skins with aplomb, he's a focal point for sure but then the entire band are focal points all totally set in their roles on stage, their collective live experience paying dividends, in enthralling the sadly thinned crowd.

As they moved between Too Many Gods and their latest record Scarecrow it's the quality of the songs that sits on par with the quality of the performance, these cats have claws (sorry) they are a much heavier prospect live than on record the dual guitar harmonies of Greg Hart and Dean Howard remind you off the classic Lizzy harmonies each man sharing solos and lead breaks, like Gorham and Robertson as Jeff Brown slings his Rickenbacker bass with an assured confidence swaggering from amp to front of stage as he finger plucks his grooves. The musical palette of the band differs they bring a lump of Foreigner, a dash of Lizzy, the soaring harmonies of Queen, with the glam rock stomp of The Sweet. The live backing vocals too were also greatly appreciated for those of us that do always feel a little shortchanged by backing tapes.

The Cats kept a fine pace with full of propulsive rockers such as Timebomb, tonight dedicated to guitarist Dean who recently recovered from a heart attack, The Mad Hatter's Tea Party and Jupiter Calling. These upbeat songs were punctuated by a few huge ballads (Mr Heartache & Scars), the poppy Last Man Standing, the progressive Scarecrow, they are much more than the standard AOR act they can be perceived to be. As I said earlier in the blog the band were on top form, you wouldn't guess this was the first stop of the tour they were polished to near perfection with Andy Stewart's racks of keys not overpowering but complimenting as another lead instrument in every song behind the mic and rounding out the band is Paul Mazi whose vocals are exemplary shifting between Paul Stanley and David Lee Roth while prowling the stage like a strutting tomcat.

There aren't many gigs where every band lives up to your expectations, there are precious few that exceed them but this was one of those times, a young band who show promise, old hands with experience and a headliner who have everything you could want from a live (indoor so no pyro) rock show. Having only caught the end of Cats In Space when they supported Thunder in Cardiff earlier this year seeing their headline performance was an eye opener, my only disappointment was how many left after Hand Of Dimes and didn't stay to see the Cats that got the cream. (Enough with the cat puns I know). 

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