The UK’s favourite intergalactic felines crash land into the capital for the final date of their Dive Into Atlantis tour. Fellow London based rockers Vambo were in tow, making this a special double whammy homecoming night for both bands.
Cats In Space, Vambo. The Garage. 2 October 2021
Words: Dave Bonney
Photography: Robert Sutton
Rolled over from previous dates due to the pandemic, a healthy crowd gathered despite various reports of attendances around the country for all bands consistently down by approximately 25% due to COVID-19 related no shows.
The London fans made the bands proud, proving that the people will come if you put a quality bill together.
Special guests Vambo have been making waves across the scene for a few years now, albeit lockdowns have admittedly slowed their rise. Well, now the shackles are well and truly off. The band are getting busy, grabbing the reigns with both hands, gaining glowing reviews from previous dates on this tour.
This leaves Vambo with barely enough time to catch their breath before setting out around the UK once more as special guests to the legendry Praying Mantis on their Time Tells No Lies 40th-anniversary tour, interspersed with a couple of festival appearances and a London headlining gig before re-joining the Cats for a couple of pre-Christmas gigs in December. Phew!
Vambo hit the stage with all the swagger of a band that know they belong, opening with the new single This Is Your Life which, with its Stargazer riff, pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the set. Vocalist Jack Stiles commands centre stage, mesmerisingly swaying like a baying cobra ready to strike.
Their brand of throwback sounds gives more than a nod to Zeppelin, Whitesnake and Purple, though, of course, with youthful exuberance abound.
During lockdown last year, the band re-released their stunning debut album as a deluxe package, including five bonus tracks, and the next song up was one of those. Paradise ups the tempo somewhat before the excellent Running In Circles takes it back down again.
We’re Not The Same leads into a Zeppelin medley that sees guitarist Pete Lance cranking out the riffs, not unlike a young Jimmy Page. He has that look about him.
Two more tracks from the album, Down Little Mamma and Fast Car, take us to the band’s last song of the night, a wonderous cover of Burn, showcasing Stiles’ extraordinary vocal range perfectly. With drummer Steve Price and bass player James Scott nailing down the rhythm, it’s the perfect set closer for the band, though sadly, it was all over far too quickly.
If you didn’t manage to catch these guys on this tour, make damn sure you catch them on stage soon. Vambo Roolz.
Cats In Space
With arena tours as special guests to Deep Purple, Thunder and Status Quo under their belt and the seemingly dwindling pandemic showing light at the end of the tunnel, this is most definitely Cats in Space’ moment and their first chance to tour their latest opus.
From Narnia to Atlantis, from space ship to submarine, the cats are back with a new captain at the bridge control. With Mark Pascall now departed, Damien Edwards has been beamed up to add the next mix to this wonderfully unique band.
From Jeff Wayne’s War Of The Worlds and Supersonic ’70s, Edwards brings an absolutely astounding set of pipes to the table. With the greatest respect to Pascall, who did a fine job replacing Paul Manzi, some things are just meant to be.
Looking resplendent in a glittery sequined flamed jacket, Edwards brought the glitz and glam to a damp drab North London corner on a monsoon of a Saturday evening.
Set intro Dive makes way for opener Too Many Gods, which is as always the perfect entrance with Edwards singing “hello” to the cat army and getting to the point with “too many people praying, to the invisible man”….indeed there are Damien!
The latest album Atlantis is well represented tonight, with no more than six songs, starting with the double salvo of Spaceship Superstar-is it just me or would this song make a great mashup with The Who’s Won’t Get Fooled Again-and Revolution, which is more like a revelation, to be honest.
An embarrassment of riches could well describe tonight’s setlist, which covers all four studio albums comprehensively with melody and harmonies galore, which Twilight, Mr Heartache and the gloriously catchy Only In Vegas offer in spadefuls.
I think most people know by now what Cats In Space are about, and if you don’t, where have you been? Outer space?
It’s well documented where the band’s influences lie and strengthened by their collaboration with Mick Wilson of 10cc fame on songwriting, three and four-part harmonies, melodies, beautiful arrangements, all delivered with a nod to the likes of Queen, ELO, Sweet. You get the picture.
And so it continues with Scars, Silver And Gold, Listen To The Radio and an exquisitely stripped back piano-led September Rain. Marionettes ups the tempo between the piano intro and outro, merging into album title track Atlantis, culminating with glorious guitar fretwork from Dean Howard.
The deliciously contradicting Thunder In The Night with its bass intro and disco beat had the crowd dancing, with its line “I can’t stand this disco music”, all that was missing was a mirror ball.
Mad Hatters Tea Party is a personal favourite of mine, and judging from looking around, many others too. With its genius social media satire lyrics, I dare you not to sing along.
I Fell Out Of Love With Rock’ n’ Roll was next up, harking back to when grunge took over the charts with Edwards singing, “why did melody become so bad at all”…I don’t think it ever really did.
Greatest Story Never Told closes the set tonight, and what a song to conclude with. From the debut album that started this all off, this song is big, and I mean huge.
Seven minutes that encapsulate everything the band have to give, from sublime duel vocals from Damien Edwards and Jeff Brown to driving drums and bass from Steevi Bacon and Brown again, swirling atmospheric keys from Andy Stewart and twin guitars and solos from Dean Howard and Greg Hart.
The band exited the stage leaving absolutely nothing out there, and the fans loved them for it, immediately shouting for more, and it wasn’t long before the Cats were back for a well-deserved encore with the damning Hologram Man ending a sizzling set with Edwards triumphantly blowing kisses to the crowd.
I really missed Johnny Rocket (I wanted to be a spaceman) tonight, but with a seventeen song set, one can’t complain with the strength of song choice the band has now.
I think I’ve run out of superlatives to describe tonight’s show, save to say the Cats served up a veritable feast of grandiose pomp and circumstance classic rock, AOR, glam.
Call it what you will, it was eagerly lapped up by one and all, and I, for one, can’t wait to do it all over again in December. Neither should you.
This article first appeared in MetalTalk’s November online magazine, which you can read for free.