Review by Paul Quinton, photos by Rich Ward
There’s been a lot of buzz in certain circles about these bands and finding them on the same bill at The River Rooms, and with a very sensibly priced ticket, was something to be looked forward to. At the start of the evening though, all the way up until Space Elevator took the stage, the crowd did look a little thin, but, as the evening went on and more people came in, it became, perhaps surprisingly, quite a healthy turn out to see two comparatively unknown bands.
Space Elevator are a London based melodic rock band who undoubtedly have the songs and the talent to go a long way in this scene, but they also have a genuine ace to play in the figure of The Duchess, their lively lead vocalist. Apparently her real name is a closely guarded secret, but with her stunning voice, not to mention her penchant for eye catching jumpsuits, there’s real star potential here, although at times during tonight’s set, it did seem that the other members of band could take some of the presentation load from her. A few shapes thrown and a bit of foot on the monitor action to draw the crowd in would not go amiss. In addition, the band seemed to struggle a little with an audience that didn’t give them a lot to feed off, The Duchess in particular seemed a little more subdued than usual as she appears to thrive on a responsive crowd.
As for the songs, their debut album is a bit of a cracker, although a lot more ‘Pop’ than their live sound would suggest, because this band definitely knows how to rock. ‘Loneliness of Love’ is as good a melodic rock song as I’ve heard this year, although ‘I Will Find You’ as brilliantly sung and played as it was, slowed down the set a little. As well as their own songs there were a couple of covers in the set; Thin Lizzy’s ‘Don’t Believe A Word’, which the band released as a charity single earlier this year, and which was announced as the Gary Moore version of the song, although it seemed the same as a couple of Lizzy live versions I’ve heard, and an encore of ‘Love In An Elevator’, which, if they were going to do a cover, is pretty appropriate. It got the crowd roused and was excellently played. This is a quality band who are well worth seeing.
The room had filled noticeably when Cats In Space took the stage and proceeded to give us a set full of the type of music that doesn’t get played live in rock clubs these days, apart from tribute bands of course. A lot of people have compared Cats in Space to the likes of ELO and Queen, but while there are clear references to those particular legendary bands, opener ‘Too Many Gods’ was far more suggestive of the influence of Cornerstone era Styx, with a healthy dose of Kansas and even more of John Miles and his 1970s mega hit single ‘Music’. Whatever the ingredients, though, this set was sheer enjoyment almost throughout.
The band played most of their debut album, along with some single tracks, particular highlights were songs like ‘Last Man Standing’ and ‘Five Minute Celebrity’, with its scathing lyrics about reality shows and celebrity culture. Throughout the set, the vocals in particular were of a really high standard, with particular mention for lead Paul Manzi, also well-known for his role in prog band Arena, and also for bassist Jeff Brown whose vocal on what he described as the album’s ‘epic’, ‘The Greatest Story Ever Told’ was absolutely excellent, but I also have to say that the band’s harmony singing was about as good as any I’ve seen in the live environment for some years. The playing was good as well, the twin lead guitars of Greg Hart and Dean Howard especially, and for all the individual band members wide experience in the business, it was often hard to believe that the band had played less than half a dozen live shows together before this short tour.
If I had criticisms, one would be that the band occasionally stray into MOR territory, as on ‘Only In Vegas’, but the overall excellence of the band more than outweighed that, and also that the main set was on the short side, at just under an hour. We did get two encore songs, both covers, firstly Slade’s ‘How Does It Feel’, which the band had released as a single earlier in the year, and finally The Sweet’s ‘Burn On The Flame’, understandable as several members of the band have served in the touring version of The Sweet at one time or another.
Overall, this was a great evening’s music and terrific value at a mere tenner a ticket. The bands deserve praise for playing gigs across the country, as does everyone involved in putting such a good show together. More soon, please.