Cats In Space – Manchester Academy 23/09/2016

Cats In Space – a new name to me so I really wasn’t sure what to expect to see. I was thinking probably a bunch of old hippies playing Hawkwind-inspired trippy psychadelia, but as you will see I couldn’t have been more wrong!

The evening turned out to be a bit of a celestial overload, with support band Space Elevator kicking off proceedings. They are a female fronted bluesy rock outfit;  very competent and singer The Duchess has a powerful and tuneful voice that reminded me of Pat Benatar. However I have to admit that I am not the biggest fan of female vocals and I did find them a little “samey” in places. Not so the crowd, who responded well to them although this may have had something to do with The Duchess’s lycra catsuit as well as the music!

Space Elevator
Space Elevator

Highlights were a slow and soulful version of Thin Lizzy’s “Don’t Believe A Word” and a bluesy paen to Doctor Who. The Thin Lizzy cover has recently been released as a single. All proceeds will go to Action On Addiction in memory of the late Phil Lynott. Details are available on the band’s website, and there is a link below. They finished with a funked-up version of Love In An Elevator and although I won’t be rushing out to buy all their merchandise watching them was not an unpleasant way to spend an hour.

Headliners Cats In Space were also new to me. Formed in 2015 by veteran guitarist Greg Hart, they describe themselves as “Power Pop Rock firmly anchored in the 1970s”.  I wasn’t sure if they would appeal to your average Planetmosh reader but they certainly sounded like something I might enjoy myself.

They opened with the title track from their recently-released album “Too Many Gods”. This is a slice of pure classic AOR with swirly keyboards, harmony vocals and even a time-change in the middle to keep it interesting. My head was nodding, and my first impression was definitely “oooh, promising……..” They followed this with the far more poppy “Only In Vegas, which had overtones of ELO and a superb woah-woah chorus. This was looking good!

Cats In Space
Cats In Space

“Last Man Standing” started with some audience participation; not your standard clapping though, we indulged in a little finger-clicking to get things going and the band responded with a song that put me very much in mind of Supertramp. “Stop” was a slice of pure 70s pop rock, and could have easily come from 10cc’s back catalogue.

There was a bit of a change of pace for “Scandalous”, where they went back to the AOR sound and reminded me very much of Toto. I missed the title of the next song, it seemed to be something to do with a Man. He might have been Blue, he might have been In The Moon? Either way the song was a bit of a lighter-waving ballad with strong power chords and a slow, dreamy chorus. Turns out on checking the album the Man was indeed In The Moon. Sounded like he was having a good time there too! Greg’s double-necked guitar then came out but phew, he didn’t play Stairway To Heaven OR Hotel California, happy days! Instead we got “Schoolyard Fantasy” which was a laid-back piece of soft rock  that put me in mind of The Eagles or maybe The Byrds.

“Mr Heartache” is another ELO-inspired song that then morphs into an AOR feast for the ears. It has an easy-to sing chorus and a very joyous and uplifting beat that just begs to be clapped to! If you can imagine a cross between Queen and The Who that’s what the next song gave us, although I didn’t catch its title. 

Next song “The Greatest Story Ever Told” starts with just a piano and bass player Jeff Brown (who was also the singer in The Sweet for over a decade) on vocals. Although the Academy 3 is not the biggest of venues I reckon this song is worthy of an arena. Again it was packed with power chords and harmonies, and has a rocking-out instrumental bridge that reminded me of Styx. To close the main set we also got “Unfinished Symphony”, another powerful punchy AOR number, and a cover of The Righteous Brothers’ “No Regrets”.

Greg breaks out the double-necked guitar!
Greg breaks out the double-necked guitar!

Cats In Space’s current single is a cover of Slade’s “How Does It Feel” which they kept fairly close to the original. Of course they couldn’t play Slade without also playing a song by The Sweet so we got a rocking cover of “Done Me Wrong Alright” to finish the evening off in style. This was probably the hardest “rock” they played all evening.

To summarise, Cats In Space are a great band. They are all veterans of the music scene who have come together to play music that they obviously enjoy.  If you are of a certain age and enjoy music that leans towards pop whilst still maintaining a rock edge albeit a laid-back one I’m sure you will enjoy it too. I certainly did! I came away with a big smile on my face and clutching my copy of the CD which has been on heavy rotation in the car this week.

More information about Cats In Space is available on their website:

About Jo Crosby

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