The Globe, Cardiff, Thurs 2 July
With the cauldron-like atmosphere already bubbling at the scene of Britpop indie heroes Cast’s return to Cardiff, the rousing sound of the Zulu theme is an inspired choice for intro music. And in no time at all, there are fists pumped aplenty and sweat dripping down the walls of The Globe, with 300-plus devotees crammed within.
Shorn of his trademark curly locks, John Power emerges under the lights with a simple wave. But unlike Samson, none of his strengths have diminished, as the next 90 minutes testifies. It’s a bit surprising that one of the band’s instantly recognisable classics doesn’t kick things off, but the double-header of Time Bomb and Not Afraid Of The World, from 2012 reunion album Troubled Times, are well received. Yet it’s not until Power slings on the electric guitar four songs into the set that the crowd really starts rocking.
For the casual fan, it’s easy to forget how many hits the Scouse quartet have delivered. Cast exploded onto the scene with their first album All Change in 1995, and two decades on it’s still sounding as fresh and exciting as ever. It remains their best moment and thankfully the setlist is heavy with cuts from it. The prolonged swirling intro to Sandstorm propels the swarm mere inches away from the stage into a frenzy. Plus, the crunching chords of debut single Finetime perfectly capture the euphoria of those bygone summers, almost 20 years to the day later. There’s also the mass sing-along that is Walkaway – greeted with more mobile phones thrust into the air than cigarette lighters, but there is one that defiantly sways back and forth (blame advances in modern technology and the smoking ban for that).
What made All Change stand the test of time, though, are the stunning tracks between the singles that glue the album together. Promised Land, Tell It Like It Is and Four Walls are all lovingly recreated. Elsewhere, mellower moments like a gorgeous rendition of Magic Hour and new acoustic song Baby Blues Eyes provide the sweltering crowd with a welcome breather. Meanwhile, lead guitarist and founding member Liam ‘Skin’ Tyson endears himself to the Cardiff crowd with pleas to “siarad Cymraeg”; not to be outdone, Power pays tribute to the Welsh capital where he’s enjoyed some of the “best nights of his life.”
The final half-hour produces a landslide of hits including Flying, Guiding Star and I’m So Lonely before an epic encore of Free Me and Alright sends fans into the night buzzing with adrenaline and ears ringing. Gigs like this provide a timely reminder that John Power remains one of the finest songwriters this country has produced in the last 20 years.
words NEIL COLLINS