Cast, Shepherds Bush Empire, London

2.00

 

When a band reforms after a long hiatus, their comeback
album can be seen as an afterthought amid the ensuing cash-in, so credit is due
to Cast. After a 10-year break, the Scouse four-piece choose to perform
three-quarters of their latest release rather than rely on back-catalogue
safety.

Although nowadays rated as Britpop also-rans, Cast became thoroughbred contenders when 1995’s All Change became Polydor’s fastest seller and Noel Gallagher described their gigs as a “religious experience”. As their fame petered out, the group dissolved at the turn of the last decade until a reunion to mark 15 years since the release of their debut album, ahead of returns by the Stone Roses and Happy Mondays. With his curly locks now shorn closer, former La’s bassist and Cast songwriter John Power still looks boyish and there is a similar Byrdsian jangle in ‘See That Girl’ to that more fabled group, though none of Lee Mather’s visionary ardour.

Instead, Power exudes a nebulous sense of disquiet undermined by dog-eared cliché, woolly pub philosophising and lyrical misfires. ‘The Sky’s Got A Gaping Hole’ seems to allude to a green issue, acid rain, that last troubled us when Cast were in the Top 10. Such confusion continues between numbers. During ‘Bow Down’, security staff drag a brawling fan from the mosh pit, causing Power to comment, “If you’re gonna kill people, kill them with love”. Elsewhere, moments of melodic nous from the group are undermined by leaden delivery from a plodding line-up.

Anonymous bass player Peter Wilkinson and guitarist Liam Tyson have worked as sidemen for the likes of Robert Plant and Ian McCulloch, while drummer Keith O’Neill is now a tour manager, who says he would have missed these dates if a major job came up. Their sluggishness seeps into older material that misses previous swagger, notably the once-powerful ‘Sandstorm’. Power falters over his clumsier lines and misses the keening quality of his early days, something you would suspect he would lack even if he had not recently suffered laryngitis.

Slowly, the band rediscover some of the fierce pride of their previous incarnation. A joyous ‘Finetime’ rings out with unheralded clarity and towards the end there is a celebratory run of tunes that features an ‘Alright’ so buoyant O’Neill rises off his stool. He closes with an exuberant drum solo, his bandmates departing with a vindicated air - their fans relieved after a lacklustre start.

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