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Cats In Space - Academy 3, Manchester (UK) - 26 September 2017

Paul Manzi (lead vocals), Greg Hart (guitar), Dean Howard (guitar), Jeff Brown (bass), Andy Stewart (keyboards) and Steevi bacon (drums) are collectively known as Cats In Space. I was here in Manchester's Academy 3 building (before all the road works outside made it almost impossible to make the journey without incurring the wrath of the wardens of traffic) for the corresponding gig in 2016, primarily for the co-headline act Space Elevator. Though the crowd in the small room numbered barely fifty, the Cats put in a stellar performance and I was floored by the quality of the songs and sound. Arguably musicians with seasoned pedigrees, they all made an impact, yet it was never in doubt that they were a band with a love for what they were doing, regardless of whether it was relevant in today's musical climate. Fast forward twelve months, they have returned with a new album that has achieved much critical success and a profile that has risen on the back of a Thunder support trek and ultimately some great songs. This is confirmed by tonight's crowd, which is pretty much double what it was in 2016 but nowhere near the size that they should be plying their wares to.


Cats In Sapce Live 2

The temperature in the Academy loft is bordering on a thousand degrees when the band make their entrance and launch into 'Too Many Gods', the proper opening track from the 2015 debut album of the same name. I'm fortunate to witness the first three songs from the photo pit and can testify from close quarters that the sound is brilliant. It makes me wonder why so many gigs leave a lasting impression due to poor sound when the Cats seem to be able to nail it every time (without being overly loud I must add). 'Mad Hatter's Tea Party' is the first song from the new 'Scarecrow' album to get an airing and it's even better live than on CD (or vinyl for those of you with a turntable).

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The harmonies are breathtaking and everything is note purrfect (come on, you knew it was going to happen). An early blip in proceedings gives Hart the opportunity to demonstrate he should stick to song-writing and guitar playing rather than joke telling, but he does reel off a list of seventies TV shows that ramp up the nostalgia factor. The new songs sit nicely next to the debut songs with both 'Scars' and the lengthy 'Scarecrow' worthy of mention. 'Mr Heartache' gets the room bouncing and the cover of Slade's 'How Does It Feel' takes me back to my teenage years when songs of this type ruled the airwaves and TV music shows.


Cats In Sapce Live 1

The encore includes a spellbinding version of 'The Greatest Story Never Told' and shows that Brown is as good a singer as his backing vocals imply. 'Five Minute Celebrity' brings things to a close and if I have one complaint, it is that it was over too soon. With a catalogue of twenty songs and the ability to throw in classic covers, I'm sure everyone would have loved a two hour Cats In Space show without a support act. These guys are not about a big show with special effects and the massaging of egos. It's all about the music and I'm sure a bigger venue will be on the cards for the next tour. Everybody wants to be a cat... Walt Disney was never more right!

Dave Bott

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