5th May 2016
Tight as a band, strong vocals from frontman John Power and those catchy Cast classics meant that everything was on point from a music perspective at O2 Academy Bristol, but this wasn’t a night to celebrate live performance and all it has to offer. A less than half full O2 Academy Bristol offered up a subdued atmosphere and unfortunately the night’s main act didn’t do much to lift it. As mentioned, it was a strong showing from the band, if you were watching a rehearsal you’d be pumped for the live offering, but then you’d feel a sense of dejection at what followed; there seemed to be little enthusiasm and passion on show and I wasn’t the only person who felt blasé about the whole thing.
The cynical folk out there would point the finger and say it’s a case of a band reluctantly coming out of retirement for a payday. That may seem unfair, but in recent times I was at the same venue watching a band from the same era, Reef, absolutely smash it, creating a warm atmosphere, interacting and feeding off the crowd and looking genuinely overwhelmed by the whole experience. Whether I’ve misread Cast’s demeanour or not is a question that needs to be asked; perhaps it’s hard to muster the enthusiasm to give it your all when you don’t sell as many tickets as you’d like, but for those who paid £20 for a ticket they deserved more. Power rarely piped up and it was only when promoting the new material and an upcoming album that he suddenly became articulate.
In fairness, their new material stands up well and having grown up in the Britpop era and sampled Cast at their best I can honestly say that I’d buy that album. Watching them live – I can honestly say I’m gutted I decided to miss my weekly 5 a side football.
For me you can dictate the narrative of a gig with your set list and after a blinding performance of their indie anthem “Sandstorm” there was an opportunity to lift the crowd after their underwhelming opening numbers. It provided a glimpse of Cast at their best and it was excellent, Liam Tyson on guitar was sensational (and in truth he looked like the only one who was up for it throughout) and the crowd were captivated with mass sing-alongs sparked by a song that made many fall in love with the band. What followed? Four new songs and a poorly thought out time for Power to start trying to interact with the audience. I’m wondering if anyone else saw through it?
I’m not one that believes a band shouldn’t play new material at a gig, but space it out! As I said, it held up well and die hard fans of Cast are undoubtedly delighted that fresh material is on the way, but let’s face it, many there on the night bought a ticket based on the Cast of old and for me that was the point where the atmosphere plummeted. Inevitably, after a few drinks, you need to relieve yourself and in nipping to the loo during this barrage of new material I noticed that almost half of the punters were stood at the bar chatting amongst themselves. “Do That” was the pick of the new material and “Roar” is apparently a free download on Soundcloud – I say apparently, I’d estimate that about 50% of Power’s chatter was in place to tell us that.
The catchy melodic numbers of “Flying,” “I’m So Lonely” and “Guiding Star” followed and inevitably “Walkaway” that provided those opportunities for the thirty and forty-somethings in the crowd to reminisce and little pockets of the audience were in their element, finally. Again, you can’t fault the musicianship but live performance needs to be more. I was more pumped listening to Cast albums in the build up to the gig than I actually was at it and it all just felt a little underwhelming. For a band whose live performances Noel Gallagher once described as being like a religious experience, I certainly would have expected more. I could reel off 20 gigs I’ve seen by unsigned acts in my hometown of Glastonbury that left me buzzing and thankful for live music. Perhaps I would have been better off not making that hour-long drive to Bristol and hitting a local venue instead.
Words – Arran Dutton
Find out more about the band at castband.co.uk