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Cats In Space / Hand Of Dimes Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     February 18, 2020    
 
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Cats In Space / Hand Of Dimes - Tivoli, Buckley (UK) - 20 December 2019

This was my first time venturing to the legendary Tivoli venue in Buckley, Wales, an impressive venue for such an out-of-the-way place. What wasn't impressive was the somewhat measly turn-out for the final show of the Christmas tour for one the UK's best bands. The fact that Dan Reed Network's Big 3-0 show was also on the same night just 45 minutes down the road in Manchester probably didn't help; but Cats In Space fans know how to enjoy themselves, no matter how large in attendance, and enjoy themselves they did.

It was also my first time seeing Hand Of Dimes, featuring former Skin & Kooga vocalist Neville McDonald. Being a local-(ish) lad, Nev earned a very warm reception from the crowd, and he still has a mighty fine set of pipes, most obviously demonstrated on the a cappella ending of 'Jacob's Ladder'. Sitting in the category of British Blues Rock a la Free, Bad Company et al, HOD aren't offering anything new, but they are decent enough to watch and certainly come across with more oomph live than on record. It definitely helped their cause when they threw in a couple of nuggets from Nev's past, namely Skin's 'House Of Love' and Kooga's 'Like I've Never Known', before wrapping things up with the brilliant slow-burner 'Sail On'.

Cats In Space, however, are on a different planet entirely, and I make no excuses for the pun. They've endured a somewhat tricky period this year when original vocalist Paul Manzi left to join The Sweet, but by replacing with the younger Mark Pascall (also of The Departed (whom he hasn't!)) they've pulled off a masterstroke. The astounding vocal harmonies are essential to the CIS sound, and Pascall has slotted in perfectly, and even edges his predecessor in terms of range. With three quite brilliant albums under their belt this band should be huge by now, but hopefully the addition of Pascall will help take things to the next level as he will certainly grow into his new role.

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This Christmas tour was the perfect way to truly bed in the new singer before they begin album number four, and the setlist (while fairly similar to the tour from earlier in 2019) is a near-enough-perfect selection of tracks from the first three records. Kicking off with the one-two pairing of 'Johnny Rocket' and 'Too Many Gods', it also takes in the likes of 'Mr Heartache', the soon-to-be classic 'Silver & Gold' and the always-sublime 'Scars'. As 'September Rain' was re-recorded as Mark Pascall's first vocal performance with CIS it's wisely added to the set, while the epic 'Jupiter Calling' also makes a welcome return.

The main set drew to its climax with the stunning 'Greatest Story Never Told' (that brilliant guitar duel between Dean Howard and Greg Hart could go on all night for me!) and the best song The Who never wrote, 'Five Minute Celebrity'. Drummer Steevi Bacon swiftly re-appeared for a short-but-sweet solo that led into the camp-but-brilliant Disco anthem 'Thunder In The Night', before they unsurprisingly wrapped things up with 'My Kind Of Christmas', complete with mass crowd sing-a-long and a huge fake snow-storm from a couple of well-placed confetti cannons – I'd wager the Tivoli cleaning staff wouldn't have been too happy about cleaning that lot up, but it was a great way to finish the show.

Ant Heeks

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