Supported by THE GULPS and CAT SFX
O2 Shepherds Bush Empire London – A LIVE REVIEW
On Saturday 29th January 2022 all roads led to Londons, 02 Shepards Bush Empire. Actually coming from Jersey, when I say roads, I mean a plane, four trains, one bus and an Uber later I arrived at my destination. A journey I would gladly do ten times over to catch such an important band performing such an iconic album, live, in full, in such a beautiful venue, with two of the hottest’s new bands around also on the line up to kick things off with a bang (bang).
Originally planned for 2020 to celebrate 25 years of the inspirational debut album “All Change”, an album that can only be described as indie pop perfection, the tour finds itself at the age old Shepards Bush Empire, such a grand theatre with an enormously rich rock n roll history. Its the perfect setting for the nostalgia filled evening which was about to take place.
Pulling up to the venue there was that pre gig buzz. People outside the nearest boozer, plastic pint glass in hand talking about the time they ran in to their local Our Price to buy the album on cassette. The last minute ticket hunters with a look of panic as they run to the box office. All in all the feeling of excitement and expectation, and exactly what a Saturday night is all about.
The Doors opened at 7pm sharp and the gig hungry crowd glide in. Straight to the bars to grab their refreshments then straight down the front. The excitement and energy is building, the lights are going down and the speakers are going up. As the background music stops the swarm of the amps switching on instantly grabs the attention as the lights glow again with their spectacular rays. On walks one of the most exciting and thought provoking brand new bands out there the punk fuelled CAT – SFX.
The drums start to pound, the fuzz filled bass starts to drive, and with the perfect opening line for a perfect opening number “it all started with a colossal boom” it has begun. Going straight in with debut single Doom Generation, which was released in July 2020 on Alan Mcgee’s Creation 23 label and quite literally smashed its way onto every punk rockers playlist. Vocalist Caterina Speranza instantly owns her surroundings, completely focused on the art that’s being delivered. Guitarist Giancarlo Mariani creating the atmosphere with reverb filled distortion, while bass player Jacob Morris and drummer Gordon Mills Jnr hold the groove as solid as rock.
What followed next was 30 mins of pure pop punk perfection. Blazing through their set of belters. One thing I adore about catching the newest bands live is hearing the unreleased material and seeing the progress they have made. Its hard to believe that the band played their first gig together only a few short months ago in July, at the legendary Death Disco held at Notting Hill Arts Club. Like any true fan I got that level of excitement when you hear the singles you have cemented in your daily playlist and when I heard the opening bars to All The Money in the World I couldn’t help but jump with joy or pogo with joy to be precise, Singing the chorus at the top of my voice into some poor bystanders earhole. What a hit record but what I heard next blew me away, the upcoming single Rodeo is outstanding, I found myself transfixed, listening with absolute concentration as every second past I’m thinking this is a belter. As the track reaches its climax its clear to see that this band 100% know how to craft a hit. As the lyrics go “This is not my first Rodeo” simple but genius at the same time. Finishing the set with another favourite Reunite with its Cure-esq bass line and unforgettable guitar riff, its was fantastic to see the smiles on the faces of the band and the crowd of beaming onlookers overjoyed that they made it down for such an amazing opening act.
CAT – SFX Set List
All The Money In The World
After a quick trip the bar for some refreshments, well more like 15 minutes in a queue for half a larger and lime, I’m back in my little spot. Grinning from cheek to cheek with little punk rock butterflies bouncing up and down in my stomach. Again the hum of guitars fuelling up stirs the attention of the now at capacity venue and on walk the worlds next soon to be rock n roll revolutionaries The Gulps.
Bang from 0 – 60 in a guitar lick the band belt into whats rumoured to be the next single Surrender. Currently being recorded with the legendary Tim Wheeler of Ash, its without a doubt a pounder of a track and a proper Rock n Roll opener. Frontman Harry All owns the crowd in an instant with his pure punk rock stance and swagger. Drummer Raoul Khayat smashing the beat to pieces yet holding firm time with bass player Simon Mouchard. The guitars are slick and dirty, filled with 1970’s punk rock undertones. Guitarist Charlie Green (named after his two favourite things apparently) brings in that element of The Strokes while Francesco Buffone strikes the vision of a young Jimmy Page as they both swap from lead to rhythm. Its clear to see how much The Gulps have utilised their time and own their existence. Every track that follows is delivered with exact intent. Mirror Mirror and Candy Candy are two perfect examples of why we can’t wait for the album, each number is not only a hit record but a sure fire crowd pleaser to be. A full theatre, some die hard followers and some brand new followers to be, but every single one of them knowing they’re witnessing the next megastars of rock n roll.
As I gaze around the room I catch Mr Alan Mcgee himself, a true legend and gentleman, beaming with pride and Jubilation for his lads, who have already been out on tour with Carl Barat already this year and wowed the crowds only the night before in Southampton. Its also clear to see the fantastic level of songwriting and how many styles have influenced their tracks. The perfectly titled King of the Disco sounds like exactly what its called, the tight disco beat and super funky riffs leads this tune up to its chorus and when Harry belts out “I’m the king of the disco” the whole joint is jumping. Next up their straight into latest single “Stuck in the city”, I find myself belting out the words with my hands in the air and feeling so bloody happy to be doing it. Such a powerful track and the content speaks for itself. Its almost snarled chorus leads out it to an almost delicate middle eight and then back in before your feet can hit the ground. Finishing off the set with the first record I ever heard from The Gulps, the almost Hives-esq “Kings House”, another belter, no other person could sing the lyric “Crazy Dancing” and it could sound so damn cool. What a performance What a band and what bunch of top lads!
THE GULPS Set List
Jump into the World
King Of The Disco
Stuck In The City
After a set like that another half a larger was needed, and as I stand there I’m reminded again why Saturday night gigs are so special. Conversation and banter is flying about and I’m introduced to absolute hero and guitarist from Manchester outfit Alias Kid, Sean O’Donnell. A perfect example of label mate camaraderie, making the journey down to catch his pals pull out a blinder. A fantastic atmosphere is brewing inside the Empire. Any strangers are strangers no more, dynamic age ranges of good, good people fill the room, all there for one reason and one reason only, They all love the music.
Now is the time for the nostalgia to fill the air, the levels are raised and voices well oiled for the mammoth sing along that is about to take place. On walk CAST and as you can imagine the cheer is overwhelming. Greeted as the musical hero’s they are, they walk on with such grace and ease with total happiness across their faces, pick up their instruments of choice and with a brief yet heartfelt welcome we are a go.
Opening up with a perfect jangle of the acoustic we’re treated to the second track from the iconic All Change Album, Promised land, and its flawless, you need to rub your eyes and wiggle your ears because its sounds just as good as it does live today as it did on the record over 25 years ago. John Power is on full form, his brilliant liverpudlian accent glides out with great melody as he sings us the lyrics that are so ingrained in our minds from listening to the album back to back. Every note and beat being played with such perfection. Its awe inspiring watching a band that have never stoped playing together, written so many great records together and they’re here right now for all of us to share in the magic once again. From there its into Mankind, Reflection and the wonderfully rock n roll Back of My Mind. Again the vocal melodies and harmonies mixed with the voices of the crowd is just so uplifting and when the electric comes out and Sandstorm starts there’s a reason these old venues are built to last, everyone is jumping, dancing or moving in there own special way. Not letting up for a second its straight into Fine Time, what a belter and how ever more poignant now for the times we live in. “You’ve gotta find time to pick the right time to make a change”. As the set chills down we’re treated to the beautiful Four Walls, with its almost balled esq vibe and poetic storey telling, it was always a tune I found almost romantic when we where indie kids with our lego haircuts and polka dot shirts. The beauty keeps on coming with the magical Walk Away. At this point I gaze around and see parents out with their 20 something children all singing along in unison, funny enough it could well be that many of their beautiful families were conceived to this very record…… Its a wonderful and a truly inspirational thing exactly how important our favourite bands and songs become over the years not only us but to our children too.
The memories just keep on coming, with the songs History, Tell It Like It Is and Two of A Kind. It really gives us an insight into to how strong a songwriter has to be and how clearly John Power has completed it ten times over. The place is erupting yet again for one that everyone’s been waiting for, Alright, it booms out and almost can’t be heard over the singing crowd. The song ends and John Power once again greets the crowd with a wink and heads off back stage.
We all know there’s an encore, and when in what seems like only moments the band arrive back on stage to give us the beautiful almost folk like Magic Hour, then once again raise’s the voices of every human being in there with an incredible performance of Live the Dream. Getting all those feet firmly moving faster again with Beat Mama and bringing the nostalgia filled smiles to their absolute heights with Flyin’ and Guiding Star. Finally finishing the whole historic evening with a phenomenal delivery of Free Me. The essence of the whole show was summed up with this closing number. The sheer joy and well being in the hearts of all in attendance and also all the amazing musicians and songwriters that graced the stage that night was all clear to see in each and everyone of their faces. Music is happiness and happiness is infectious and we’ll all remember it thanks to great bands like not only Cast but The Gulps and Cat – SFX also.
So as the doors of the venue closes the rest of the night only begins. With an Uber shaped chariot awaiting we’re whisked off into the north London nightlights to the afters with The Gulps, but that my good folks is a story for another time….
Words by JIM DOLAN
All photos by Jim Dolan unless otherwise stated