Forget your pantomimes, your West End shows and your corporate Christmas parties. The most enjoyment to be had in town tonight was right here in Islington, as Cats In Space delivered two sets of out-of-this-world rock.
Cats In Space
Islington Assembly Hall – 13 December 2023
Words: Liz Medhurst
Photography: Steve Ritchie
Cats In Space combine the melodic wow factor of ELO, the rock sensibilities of Thin Lizzy, the layered complexity of Styx and the charisma of Quo all wrapped up in one glittering package. What else is there to say, apart from this colossal show, is the best value on this side of Jupiter?
Actually, I do need to say more. I’m nowhere near my word count. What else can I tell you?
Well, for starters, the drill for this leg of the tour is two full sets. The first showcases the current album Kickstart The Sun, a magnificent four-sider that hasn’t strayed far from my speakers since its release. The second set is a selection from across the other four albums, a flawless selection which highlights the sheer strength of the Cats In Space catalogue.
I could mention that the staging has had an almighty glow-up and includes screens used to stunning effect with visuals unique to each song, created and designed by James Heron of Carriage Return.
These are projected live and enhance the songs beautifully. There are absolutely no click tracks at a Cats In Space gig. Check out Poke The Witch, where Mel the Witch travels seamlessly between the three screens. Or the intensely personal touch in Hero, which shows photographs of much-loved departed family and friends.
We must talk about the unique chemistry within the band. All six members have their own individual identities, and the alchemy is gorgeous. Take any combination, like the massive twin guitar wall of sound of Greg Hart and Dean Howard. The solid and intricate drumming of Steevi Bacon combined with the powerful and fluid bass of Jeff Brown.
Keyboard maestro Andy Stewart, at his grand piano, provided luscious harmonic support for Dean Howard’s moving guitar interlude, Broken Hearted, which segued into the heart-rending Scars. Little jewels of interplays and motifs scattered everywhere. Mmmm.
Of course, this level of brilliance in the music needs a super strong vocalist and frontman to pull it together and carry it off – no worries, Damian Edwards fits the bill in every respect, with a dazzling stage presence and a tone and range that hits the spot like a champagne cocktail and a smoked salmon blini.
And the way he unleashes those pelvic thrusts … on second thoughts, we’d best not talk about that.
You have to understand that there’s not a bad song or a scrap of filler tonight – take any song, and I could go on about it all night. I won’t, though.
But oh, the emotional whammy of Hero and 1,000,000 Miles. The groove of Thunder In The Night goes straight to the hips. The powerful force of Marionettes combined with Atlantis. And not one, but two epic songs, with a breathtaking Bootleg Bandoleros, translating brilliantly to the stage, and of course, the Cats’ centrepiece Greatest Story Never Told, a song that is definitely worth its weight in gold.
We love our rock hard and heavy here, and this gig was truly satisfying. There’s something for everyone, though. You can prefer things on the lighter side and still be blown away by this show, a true mark of excellence.
By the time we got to the finale of the autobiographical I Fell Out Of Love With Rock ’n’ Roll, complete with a magnificent reel of pictures of the band in their finery of years gone by, there was one abiding thought.
Thank Bastet for Cats In Space, so we can all continue our love affair with rock ’n’ roll. What has been said so many times still holds up – purrfection.