Review by Simon Kneller
Arguably one of the best castles in the country. In a time of war this castle would have been formidable and must have been a real sight to behold. Even now it is amazing and I can only imagine what it looked like in its prime with men at arms patrolling the walls and castle towers. Thankfully the castle is no longer used for the purposes upon which it was constructed and is now a popular tourist attraction and the venue for a rock concert which will live long in the memory of this reviewer. The setting is stunning and luckily the weather played its part as well being uncharacteristically very warm and sunny! The gates opened at 4pm and the concert was sold out almost as soon as it was announced. There was a definite sense of anticipation in the air as the crowds made their way to the stage and mostly looked in awe at the surroundings they found themselves in. The promoters had made the clever decision to have a local DJ warm the crowd up playing some classic rock for the first hour before the live music started. All too often gig goers are left ambling around waiting however, Andy Fox (GTFM, BCFM & RockRadio) whipped up the level of excitement for the crowd before the live event and during the periods between bands while the roadies feverishly changed the stage etc and acted as compere introducing all 3 bands.
Cats In Space
PAUL MANZI- Lead Vocals
GREG HART-Guitars, Vocals
JEFF BROWN-Bass, Vocals
STEEVI BACON-Drums, Percussion
ANDY STEWART-Piano’s, Synthesizers
Arriving on stage in brilliant sunshine Cats In Space launched straight into ‘Too Many Gods’, and immediately the crowd were captivated by the brilliant voice of the lead singer. Mostly the knowledgeable crowd were aware of the bands music and already singing along to probably their most memorable song. ‘Mad Hatters Tea Party’, Clown In Your Nightmare and ‘Scars’ from the brilliant album ‘Scarecrow’ were next showcasing the bands superb musicianship and the songwriting abilities of guitarist Greg Hart. A new album was mentioned and a track from it ‘Hologram Man’ was performed showing the band are absolutely on an upward trajectory. Things slowed down for ‘Greatest Story Never Told’ a song which builds from a piano/vocal intro up to a great guitar solo out-tro. The last song in the set ‘Five Minute Celebrity’ could have been on any album by ASIA and brings things to a fitting close. Cats In Space are a band who show their influences with pride in the music. A mixture of early Queen, Prog and AOR combined with excellent songs performed in this beautiful setting was a perfect beginning to the concert. I hope Cats In Space continue their upward trajectory and I look forward to the next album.
Hand Of Dimes
Neville MacDonald – Lead Vocals, Guitar
Neil Garland – Keyboards, Harmonica
Colin Edwards – Guitar (Jim Kirkpatrick FM)
Mark Maybry – Bass
David Stephenson – Drums
A band up next which, following a recommendation, I have been following for a number of years and who, in my opinion, should be much bigger and well known within the rock community than they already are. Firstly Colin Edwards was unable to perform at the gig so the post was taken up ably and seamlessly by Jim Kirkpatrick of British rockers FM. Vocalist Nev MacDonald is known to most from his previous bands including Kooga and Skin. Again, most of the audience know the music of the band even though they have only released one album and an EP to date. The band launched straight into their first 5 songs from the debut album ‘Raise’. ‘Looking At You’ showed straight away how musically adept the band are and perfectly showcased Nev’s legendary rock voice. ‘Moonlight Mile’ and ‘Bad Reputation’ worked the attentive crowd providing some great singalong moments and got hands raised and feet stomping. My highlight is the brilliant ‘Jacobs Ladder’. A very beautiful song proving Nev’s singing credentials are solid no matter what style he is singing. Next is ‘Guilty’ which is the album opener and features some superb Harmonica playing by Neil Garland (Nev’s former Kooga and Skin keyboard player) Nev and Neil revisit their previous band ‘Kooga’ with a superb rendition of ‘Like I’ve Never known’ and the band close their set with crowd pleaser and ‘Skin’ favourite ‘House Of Love’. The band exit the stage to a rapturous and well deserved applause with the crowd wanting more. It is so rare to see a band having such a connection with their fans and genuinely enjoying the experience.
Danny Bowes ,- Vocals,
Luke Morley, – Guitars,
Harry James ,- Drums,
Ben Matthews ,- Guitars & Keyboards,
Chris Childs, – Bass,
As the sun began to set, the anticipation was building and Thunder bounced onto the stage to an absolute barrage of cheering from the crowd. Launching into the title track from the excellent ‘Wonder Days’ album Danny Bowes already had the audience in the palm of his hand. Thunder’s most recent release was the superb album ‘Rip It Up’ and we were treated to the track ‘The Enemy Inside’. For me the album showed Thunder were not just happy to sit on their laurels but were still able to produce new material as good as their back catalogue. Another 2 tracks from the ‘Wonder Days’ album had Danny getting the audience involved and showed just what a great frontman, cheerleader and showman he is. Classic Thunder next with ‘Low Life In High Places’ and the first song I ever heard of theirs ‘Backstreet Symphony’. Hearing these 2 songs brilliantly performed transforms me straight back to my youth and easier times before adult responsibilities and stresses. A fellow gig goer informed me with Thunder you will always get a good show and they never let the crowd down. This was certainly the case at Caerphilly castle as the band and particularly Danny continued to entertain the crowd using some comedic touches at times. The highlight of their set was a superb rendition of the classic ‘Love Walked In’. Every band member is adept at their particular instrument however, Luke Morley is an understated genius guitar player and this comes to the fore on this particular track. The band leave the stage to a crescendo of noise the castle probably has not heard for a few hundred years and it isn’t long before the band re-appear to perform the encore, an excellent extended version of ‘Dirty Love’. Visually stunning and musically brilliant, Thunder are one of the best rock acts performing live today with a front man deserving of more credit than I think they receive.
For me every band was a 10/10 and so was the venue. Cats In Space and Hand Of Dimes deserve more exposure and Thunder showed their classic rock credentials.
Special mention must go to Orchard Entertainment who have organised an event which will live long in this reviewer’s memory. I sincerely hope this is not a one-off event and there will be plenty more rock gigs at this amazing venue in the years to come.