Cats in Space haven’t actually been around that long, formed in 2015 by guitarist/songwriter Greg Hart and drummer Steevi Bacon, they are unusual in that they are not a super group as such, they are a band of musicians who got together to write and play classic rock songs in the styles of the seventies and eighties. Yet somehow, they hit a sweet spot in a market that is saturated with retro sounding bands and have stormed up the line-ups to where we are tonight, a head-lining tour to a 600+ audience at the Engine Rooms.
They open the set with ‘Kickstart the Sun Intro’ that melts into ‘King of Stars’ and the reason for their rapid rise is instantly apparent, Damien Edwards struts around the stage framed by Greg Hart and Jeff Brown throwing shapes while delivering pure seventies vocal lines, soaring harmonies, solid melodies and the complexities of Prog at its finest. Wherever your spirits might start they are rapidly exalted and you can feel your face splitting into a huge smile.
It’s October and fortuitously their latest single is called ‘Poke the Witch’ which is a happy go lucky, foot tapping, little song, in turn ‘Teenage Millionaires’ is a stonking rocker driven along by Jeff Brown on bass and Steevi Bacon on drums.
‘Kickstart the Sun’ allows Andy Stewart to step into the spotlight for this keyboard led, Foreigner style song, later he and Damien duet on ’Hero’ a beautiful ballad that gives Damien a chance to show the audience his vocal chops, the big notes are strong and controlled and they both, rightly, receive roof raising applause.
Cats in Space deliver by the truckload, not least of all the songs; ‘Charlie’s Ego’ is a delightful Ray Davies style ditty, Marionettes/Atlantis is fabulously Prog, the sound huge (I’ll come back to the sound in a minute). The band are no spring chickens and one thing I appreciate about them is they have not gone down the route of trying to pretend they are 25 years old; they have embraced the grey, adapted their look and look all the cooler because of it. They may not look 25 but they own the stage with more panache than many 25-year-olds.
I have to take a moment to mention the sound, the Engine Rooms is an abysmal environment for sound, I’ve never heard a band sound really good in there, but tonight the sound is superb, not just the best I’ve heard at that venue but one of the best I’ve heard full stop. This is down to the masterly skills of sound man Pete Russell, the Cats in Space secret weapon that elevates them another notch.
Cats give value for money in so many ways not least for the 17-song set. There is a lot of comment among music fans about the ridiculous price of gig tickets these days. Well, let me tell you, the next time the Cats come to a town near you, take the opportunity to not just see a world class performance but witness a Master craftsman on the sound desk, and have your heart lifted to a higher place, all for less than 30 quid.
Words & images: Helen Bradley.