Newish UK pomp rock Godz Cats in Space opened proceedings on Deep Purple’s latest return to Cardiff (Europe were putting the meat in the sandwich tonight), and I’m pleased – if not a little surprised, if I’m honest – to note that there was quite a buzz around the place as we waited for the band to hit the stage.
Kicking off with Too Many Gods is a good move (as was the chucklesome Sweeney intro tape), all the singing members of the band shouting ‘hello!’ to the waiting faithful in perfect harmony being a great way to break the ice. Not to mention the song rocks like a bastard live! Vocalist Paul Manzi cuts quite a reserved figure at the front, but his voice is stunning, and the harmonies from guitarists Greg Hart and Dean Howard, bassist Jeff Brown and keyboard tinkler Andy Stewart are spot on. If we’d had any worries about ‘opening band sound syndrome’ we needn’t have worried, as the band cut through the ether with power and precision.
Mad Hatter’s Tea Party is up next, a song I wasn’t overly keen on on the band’s Scarecrow album released earlier this year. Live the whole thing makes sense, though, as the song becomes an urgent, razor sharp piece of power-pop based on Stewart’s propulsive keys and Manzi’s commanding vocal presence.
I had to miss Timebomb due to the call of nature, too many cans of Lager on the train into the city will do that to a man of my age out on his birthday treat, but I did get back into my seat for the centrepiece of this all-too-short set…
Jeff Brown opens up The Greatest Story Never Told in superb fashion, adding a real seventies soul feel vocally; smooth and silky, just how the ladies used to like it… the mid section of the song is so seventies it hurts, and Mrs Strickmann told me later she half expected a side-stage invasion from the Nigel Lythgoe Dancers to take place… which doesn’t detract from the fact that the song is the greatest pomp rock song written since the glory days of the genre… the duelling solos from Greg Hart and Dean Howard at the end of the song underline just what a tremendous band Cats in Space are.
The band close with a fabulous reading of Five Minute Celebrity, taking time for a bit of call and response from a Cardiff crowd that quite clearly have some new hard rock heroes… all of whom revel in the Who-like dynamics the band effortlessly purvey, Hart windmilling like Pete Townshend, drummer Steevi Bacon punishing his small but perfectly formed kit with Moonesque abandon.
And then, all too briefly, they were gone, leaving their fellow tourists with a hell of a task in following such a consummate rock n’roll performance. That they failed is no reflection on them, but very much a reflection on Cats in Space, for whom the only way now from here is up, up and away!