Cats In Space + Rock Goddess @ Birmingham Institute 3 – Saturday 9th March 2019


Review by Paul Quinton

This tour was originally to be a three band bill, with Cats In Space supported by Rock Goddess and Dirty Thrills, but shortly after the New Year, Dirty Thrills decided to call it a day and so it reverted to a two band gig, with Rock Goddess extending their set to an hour. When the latter took the stage, the 3rd room at the Institute was filling up, and by the time the headliners came on, the room wasn’t far off full.

A day or so after the gig, it was announced that ROCK GODDESS guitarist and singer Jody Turner had been rushed to hospital, put on a drip and was diagnosed as suffering from cellulitis, which would make any ordinary review of their set a little superfluous. What I will say is that the band had very little room on stage, and were showing off their new bass player, Jenny Lane, who seemed to fit in as if she’d been in place for years. I did think Jodie’s vocals were too low in the mix at times, and throughout their set, there was a strange ‘whooshing’ noise, like a permanently vibrating cymbal, coming out of one PA stack in all the less noisy moments, but the band didn’t seem to let such things put them off. I was quietly impressed by the band’s newer material, from their album ‘This Time’, they seem to be trying to do something different and it seemed to give the band an extra dimension, particularly drummer Julie Turner, and they sounded all the better for it. But, more importantly, get well soon, Jodie, hope you’re feeling better asap.

It might have been a bit of a concern, bearing in mind the issues Rock Goddess experienced, as to whether the PA would be able to cope with the multi layered and complex CATS IN SPACE sound, and there were a couple of early bouts of apprehension when there was feedback whenever bassist Jeff Brown moved off his mark, and he also seemed to be having issues with the on-stage sound in the first part of the set, but things settled down, it didn’t appear to affect the band in any way, and they proceeded to deliver an absolutely excellent set.

With a much praised new album out, it was obvious they would build a large part of the set around it, although they chose not to play the whole of the 27 minute song cycle, ‘The Story of Johnny Rocket’, in one go. After the ‘Stray Cat Strut’ intro tape, they did open with ‘Johnny Rocket’ itself, before giving us a 90 minute set of immaculately put together, brilliantly played music. If you’ve been following rock music for any length of time, Cats In Space will often drive you to distraction, trying to identify the numerous references in their music, often several in the same song, but their genius, along with terrific playing and even better songwriting, is to make all this sound completely new. It really is an exhilarating experience seeing this band live.

For all the referencing, their lyrics often deal with contemporary themes, and almost as often have a sting. ‘Hologram Man’, for example, is about the current trend of playing shows with projections or holograms of a deceased legend, and ‘Five Minute Celebrity’ refers to ‘famous for five minutes’ reality show ‘stars’, but the commentary is always wrapped up in these tremendous songs. Of the older songs, ‘Mr. Heartache’ always stands out because of its immaculate chorus, and ‘Five Minute Celebrity’ is a great way to round off a set. The encore was the song from ‘Day Trip to Narnia’ that’s caused a bit of a stir, ‘Thunder In The Night’. It has the same kind of disco/funk feel as Kiss’ ‘I Was Made For Loving You’, while still have that signature Cats In Space multi layered pomp pop sound. It has to be said that the live version went down a treat in the Institute, and the whole set got a tremendous reaction from what was not far off a capacity crowd.

Cats In Space have made no secret of wanting to move into bigger venues, with the space and capacity to put on a much bigger and more elaborate show than has been possible so far. If they keep on putting on shows of this quality, it’s only a matter of time before the bigger venues are beckoning.