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ConcertsCats In Space, Jimi Anderson Group; Glasgow Oran Mor 9th May 2019

Posted on Sunday, May 12 2019 @ 19:53:32 CDT by Steven Reid
Concert Reviews

It could have been with heavy heart that Cats In Space fans trudged through the unseasonably cold and wet Glasgow evening to see the band on their Narnia tour; the news that singer Paul Manzi would soon be leaving his feline chums to take up the role of keyboard player/singer in The Sweet only just having settled in. Cats In Space however were here to celebrate, here to lift the mood and here to quite simply have a great time. With three albums under their belts CiS also have a plethora of thumping, pumping, retro-humping 70s styled anthems at their disposal. However, tonight’s early festivities were brought to us from a different time in musical history, the Jimi Anderson Group thoroughly and rather expertly fixated on the 80s. Stepping into the wardrobe of time was Sea of Tranquility’s Steven Reid.

A native Glasgow band, I’ve heard a lot about the Jimi Anderson Group without actually having clapped my ears on their music. In all honesty, what with the double I in the forename reminding of a certain and much missed Jimi Jamison and the images I’d seen of Anderson himself bringing to mind the Scottish Steven Perry, I can’t lie - my inner cynic was out in force. And then Anderson started singing! What a revelation, with his full rich voice perfect for the unabashed, classic AOR sound his band specialise in. Looking dapper in a neat waistcoat and with a small hardcore of supporters singing every word, the likes of “Higher And Higher” would have been an anthem for the ages some thirty years ago, while “Where Do We Go From Here” - which Jimi wrote after proposing to his wife - was a power ballad supreme. Looking to team up with AOR Heaven for an upcoming album titled I Belong in July, Jimi also treated us to some new cuts, with “Brave New World” an absolute barnstormer that I must admit has my hopes sky high for what’s to come. Flanked by some well known faces of the West Coast (of Scotland) scene, it was guitarist Andy Christie who, on occasion and with Jimi’s encouragement, stole the limelight, this man of many bands including Swamp Born Assassins and Last Alibi, a talent that truly deserves a wider audience. So from cynic to new fan, I left the venue tonight clutching Jimi’s previous album Long Time Comin’, of which there was only one copy left - job done me thinks. In the words of my knowledgable daughter at the end of Jimi’s set; this band don’t do anything new, but they do something old very well indeed!

If Cats In Space were put out by the news of the departure of their singer - who is something of a jewel in their crown - then they sure weren’t showing it. It’s a long time since I’ve seen a band have so much fun on stage, a mixture of glistening top hats, silver adorned long coats and shapes last thrown around 1978 cleverly contradicting just how tight this band needs to be to pull off the Cats In Space attack. Manzi is a huge presence and even larger vocal master but when flanked by the near falsetto (and much else) of bassist Jeff Brown and guitarists Dean Howard and Greg Hart, the vocal assault becomes something to behold. Add in keyboard mad hatter Andy Stewart and even drummer Steevi Bacon helping to build the ginormously pinpoint wall of voices and the results often knocked all in attendance sideways.

Overcoming an early, low end rumble of feedback that never quite revealed whether it was coming from the echo of Bacon’s snare drum or Brown huge bass sound - although an unwanted higher pitched tinkle would never quite be banished from wherever it came - the audience were cajoled through a journey in Narnia as described between the songs in theatric and at times intentionally ridiculous fashion by Manzi, this platform for new cuts like “Mr Heartache”, “Silver & Gold” and “Narnia” itself an excellent device to keep everyone engaged as the band got set for the next volley of vocal mastery. However it’s not only in the singing department that Cats In Space are locked in tight, the twin guitar interplay between the prowling Hart and grinning Howard almost coming from another world as a near constant tumble of dual fret histrionics was eagerly lapped up by the enthusiastic crowd.

Joking that he and his bandmates needed a mid set seat, we were also treated to an unexpected acoustic section, Bacon, according to Manzi, banging his bongos in the corner, as the guitar-men, drummer and singer lined the front of the stage atop a collection of stools. Often this style of change of pace can suck the life out of a live show but with “Chasing Diamonds” and “Man In The Moon” revealing a different side in this setting it proved a masterstroke. Although it was the less often heard “September Rain” that truly shone, and once again highlighted the simply irresistible vocals at this band’s disposal.

With the topic of the song clearly important to him, Hart introduced “Hologram Man”, a certain tour doing the rounds these days where the singer is no longer with us the target of his ire. The song itself was a triumph, as was “Greatest Story Never Told” and the magnificent set closer “Five Minute Celebrity”, although the six men of the moment were quickly dragged back on stage for the rumble and roll of “Thunder In The Night”. And with that it was over in a flash; a two hour set that felt like mere minutes. What happens next is anyone’s guess, because Paul Manzi’s shoes, on this evidence, are even bigger ones to fill than most had realised. If any band can though it’s Cats In Space and with performances as stunningly exciting as this one, we can only hope they do.

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