Artist: Cats In Space
Venue: Redditch, Palace Theatre
Date: 29 September 2023
"I absolutely believe that Cats In Space are one of the greatest bands on this planet right now, and they’re well on the way to finding new galaxies to explore. I implore you to attend one of the remaining shows on this tour; even if you’ve never listened to Cats In Space before, I guarantee you’ll be completely blown away."
It’s a remarkably ambitious move for a band of Cats In Space’s stature to embark on a theatre tour, but it’s a step that has worked perfectly for the band; the theatrical nature of their music absolutely belongs in this environment.
As soon as this tour was announced I decided upon three shows to attend; the first should have been the Stockport show in early September, which was unfortunately postponed due to the theatre having to temporarily close due to the structural safety (damn you, RAAC!), so I would have to wait another agonising three weeks before being able to see this show in the salubrious surroundings of Redditch’s Palace Theatre. And although the number of people in attendance was somewhat disappointing when you consider these guys deserve to be performing in much bigger venues than this, nevertheless the band hit the stage and performed like they were playing at a sold-out Wembley Stadium.
It’s an impressively extravagant stage set, with screens flanking each side of the stage and also one screen in the visor of the huge, illuminated Cat Pod that soared above Steevi Bacon’s drum kit, while Andy Stewart’s white grand piano is adorned with another sparkling Cat Pod helmet that rotated throughout the evening. Throughout the show the screens project images or films that enhance each particular song wonderfully while never detracting from the music. Special mention must go to The Cats’ seventh member and video director James Heron who has designed this amazing spectacle.
The show is split into two halves, and the first half is a more visual feast that’s devoted to their ‘Kickstart The Sun’ opus, with all but two songs performed from it, and right from the off with the rambunctious opener ‘King Of Stars’ it’s evident the band are on fire. The theatrical element to the show is enhanced by their clothing too, with glittery jackets, t-shirts and Andy Stewart’s top hat, while guitarist Greg Hart and bassist Jeff Brown are wearing the spacesuit-style jackets from their ‘1,000,000 Miles’ video. Vocalist Damien Edwards is clearly at home in this environment and possesses a quite extraordinary voice that handles the more Rock-orientated material perfectly, but absolutely comes into its own on the ballads, of which there are several in this set, including the epic ‘Kickstart The Sun’ and ‘A Big Balloon’, but most poignantly the beautiful piano-led ‘Hero’ during which the screens portray images of deceased loved ones that were sent in by fans – it’s a lovely, emotional touch that highlights the truly magnificent bond that CIS have with their audience. ‘Poke The Witch’ and ‘Charlie’s Ego’ emphasise the more playful aspect of the Cats’ music, while the set closes with the tour-de-force epic number that is ‘Bootleg Bandoleros’; I’ve waited a long time to see this song performed live, and it’s just stunning – words just can’t describe how special this song is, and you need the interval break to absorb everything that you’ve just witnessed.
If the first half of the show was all about the theatrical experience, then the second half is more about the Rock ‘n’ Roll, albeit Rock ‘n’ Roll in a theatre setting. It’s a “Greatest Hits” set that when you consider the songs that are left out actually makes you realise how many amazing songs Cats In Space have in their repertoire now. Highlight follows highlight, including the likes of ‘Too Many Gods’, ‘Mr. Heartache’, the return to the set of ‘Johnny Rocket’, ‘Thunder In The Night’, ‘The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party’, ‘Listen To The Radio’, and my personal favourite ‘Scars’ which was preceded by a quite beautiful guitar solo from Dean Howard accompanied by Andy Stewart’s piano. Their piece de resistance ‘The Greatest Story Never Told’ closes the main set as has now become customary, before the encore of ‘Hologram Man’ and ‘I Fell Out Of Love With Rock ‘n’ Roll’ with it’s tagged-on, speeded-up finale, complete with mass crowd sing-along and visual accompaniment of pictures of the band members in their youth and a perfectly-timed shot of Marc Bolan – just brilliant.
This show an amazingly spectacular visual experience, but that would mean nothing if the band didn’t have the songs to back it – and they most certainly do. This is joyous music with intelligent lyrical content that ranges from tongue-in-cheek to thought-provoking to downright emotional, backed up by impeccable musicianship and perfect vocals. I absolutely believe that Cats In Space are one of the greatest bands on this planet right now, and they’re well on the way to finding new galaxies to explore. I implore you to attend one of the remaining shows on this tour; even if you’ve never listened to Cats In Space before, I guarantee you’ll be completely blown away.
Review Ant Heeks